Qatar

Introduction

Qatar is situated in the Persian Gulf, bordered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A British protectorate for much of the last century, the peninsula consists mainly of low hills, sand dunes, salt flats, a stunning inland sea – and oil and gas. It is this which gives the now-independent country its immense wealth and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

Doha, once a quaint pearl-fishing village, is the emirate’s glitzy modern capital and home to a large British and American expatriate population. It is here that most visitors prefer to stay, enjoying a unique blend of eastern and western culture and architecture, and spending time on the palm-fringed Doha Corniche. This promenade, stretching some four miles along the seafront, offers numerous facilities, from five and six-star hotels and restaurants to spacious recreational areas and good beaches.

Just a few minutes’ boat ride from the corniche is Palm Tree Island, an escape offering a range of family amenities and a good fish restaurant.

Among Doha’s many popular attractions are Qatar National Museum and the Kingdom of Aladdin Theme Park – similar in some ways to Disney World – traditional markets and huge, modern shopping malls.

Away from Doha, Qatar’s towns, luxury resorts and fishing villages are well worth visiting. Not to be missed is Almaha Sanctuary at Shahaniya where the Arabian Oryx – the almost-extinct animal on which the unicorn legend is based, and today Qatar’s national symbol – is protected.

The country’s currency is the Qatar Riyal (QR). Credit cards are widely accepted, and visitors are recommended to take traveller’s cheques in US dollars or GB pounds. ATMs are available at banks, in shopping malls and on the main streets of Doha and other towns.

 

 See & Do

There are a number of places to visit and sights to see during your stay. Below is just a selection of what is possible.

  • Doha – visit the Qatar National Museum, housed in Fariq al-Salata Palace, and Aladdin’s Kingdom, the Persian Gulf’s only theme park
  • Doha Bay – takes a dhow ride or boat trip to Palm Tree Island (Al-Nahil)
  • Doha Golf Club – play a round or two where the international greats compete
  • Doha, near Messaueed – try a little sand-dune skiing
  • Al Shahhaniyah – bet on camel racing
  • Doha – at Doha Fort (Al-Koot) see exhibits of Moorish-style handicrafts, including rope making and boat building
  • Al-Wakra – relax on the stunning beach and visit Al-Wakra Museum
  • Khor al-Adaid – book an overnight tour to this, Qatar’s magical inland sea

 

Shopping

Doha’s Souq Waqif is the place to buy silk, nuts and spices – and even enormous aluminium pans. Huge modern malls, complete with cinemas and restaurants, sell virtually everything.

From Saturday to Thursday the normal shopping hours are 8-12noon and 4-7pm, or even later. All the main malls are open to 9 or 10pm. Many stores open on Friday evenings. 

 

Eating out

Across Qatar the popular Gulf menu of rice, lamb and mezza – essentially homos and chopped salad – dominates. However, there are plenty of other delicious dishes to choose from, including a good choice of Indian and Chinese cuisine.

For national food, go to any of Qatar’s many hotels. Middle Eastern, French and Italian meals are readily available and even themed dining events.

Do try the local specialities. These include Levantine schwarma – spit-roasted meat shavings in pitta bread – and Egyptian foul and taamiyeh, deep-fried balls of mashed chickpeas.

Locally caught fish is widely available, plus refreshing desserts such as lemon and mint or avocado milkshakes.

For everyday snacks, try the numerous hotel beach or poolside bars and buffet restaurants.

Remember that drinking alcohol away from the better restaurants and hotel bars – mainly in Doha – is prohibited.

Among some of Doha’s recommended restaurants are:

  • Al-Majiles Al-Arabi Restaurant (Arabian) - Souq Ali Bin Jassim
  • Al-Hamra (Gulf, Lebanese, European) – Al-Rayyan Road
  • Al-Tawash (Qatari) – Souq Waqif
  • Shatter Abbas (Iranian) - Hyatt Plaza
  • La Cigelon (international) –Shaim Bin Hamad Street
  • Wok of Fame (Chinese) – Villagio
  • Al Dana Seafood Restaurant (seafood) – Sharq Village and Spa
  • Tajine (Moroccan) – Souq Waqif
  • Chinagari (Indian) – Ramada Hotel
  • Al Mourjan (Lebanese) – on the Corniche

 

Entertainment

Qatar’s nightlife centres on hotels, with jazz evenings, live band events and, remarkably, cookery classes and food promotions.

Especially enjoyable is the Qatar Summer Wonders Festival of Fun. Featuring local and international music, dance, circus acts, fireworks and parades, this annual event takes place at the International Exhibition Centre and other locations. A big attraction for golf fans is the Qatar Masters Golf Tournament, part of the European and Asia PGA tours.

English-language films are shown in many cinemas.

And, yes, it is possible to enjoy a drink and some music. Try these Doha clubs and bars:

  • Admirals Club – Ritz-Carlton
  • StreetNoyz – Sports Bar, Ramada Hotel
  • Habanos Club – The Ritz
  • Cloud Nyn Night Club – Mewreb Hotel
  • La Paloma – Hotel Intercontinental
  • Aussie Legends – Rydges Hotel
  • English Pub – Garvey’s
  • Orion
  • Bubbles C&C Bar
  • Cigar Lounge
  • Old Manor

 

Excursions

Boat trips to Palm Tree Island (Al-Nakhil), a sandbar at the heart of Doha Bay, are extremely popular. The island, just 15 minutes out from the mainland, is renowned for its beautiful beaches and fish restaurant. Also worth visiting are the old fishing towns of Al-Khor, Al-Zubara, Sala Mohammed and Umm Salair Ali.

Khor Al-Adaid – otherwise known as the Inland Sea – should be on everyone’s itinerary.

For getting around, hire cars and Qatar’s reasonably priced orange and white taxis are ideal. Visitors thinking of exploring beyond Doha should consider an organised tour.

 

Health & Safety

Anyone planning to visit Qatar should consult their doctor about vaccinations. With medical treatment expensive and doctors and hospitals expecting immediate payment, health insurance is recommended. Away from hotels and resorts, under-cooked food and unwashed fruit and vegetables should be avoided. Visitors are advised to drink bottled water to avoid traveller’s diarrhoea.

 

 

 

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