Everyone’s idea of the Middle East is Dubai! People keep on going to Dubai over and over again, and a lot of people forget the gas rich country that’s almost next to the UAE. Over the last few years, Qatar has been investing a lot to lure tourists to the country. Recently they even dropped VISA requirements for a lot of countries as well. So is Qatar worth a stopover for a few days? Are there enough things to do? How easy is it to visit? How long will you need?
Qatar is located in the Middle East on the border with Saudi Arabia.
Qatar is a fairly small country that’s located in the Middle East. It has only one city, Doha. It is served by a nice big airport, Hamad International, which is the hub of Qatar Airways and is therefore connected very well throughout the world. The currency is the Qatari Riyal and because of its location, experiences fairly hot weather with little rain throughout the year.
Most of Qatar is a desert, and most people that live in Qatar live in Doha, the capital city.
IMPORTANT: It’s very important for you to understand that each different country will always give you a different experience, and loving that different experience will make you enjoy everywhere you travel to. Qatar is a Muslim country, and the locals mostly keep to themselves. That’s how it is and how it will always be. Majority of the workforce are expats, which generally give you great service for almost everything that you need.
Transport in Qatar
Due to the upcoming FIFA World cup, Doha will soon have a train system in operation. It is currently still under construction. Public transport was never really good in Doha, and as a result of this, traffic is a bit bad due to everyone using private transport. Car rental is quite cheap and available from many different companies at the Airport. If you are staying for a few days, you could use the taxis which are moderately priced. Doha is not a very big city so you don’t really need to travel very far to see most of the attractions.
What to do in Qatar?
The Museum of Islamic Art
This is the “face” of Doha, and a stunning building that’s constructed over water and is visible almost as soon as you enter the city. Every angle of it is stunning from both the inside and outside. The entrance is free at the moment. The Museum has lots of items from Islamic history located over a few floors which you can walk and view. There are also terraces with water features with views of the city and ocean.
The whole area around the Museum of Islamic Art has a gorgeous design.
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most famous attractions in Qatar.
MIA Park (Museum of Islamic Art Park)
Located next to the Museum of Islamic Art, this is a park with a curved walkway which gives you excellent views of the Museum of Islamic Art and the whole Doha Skyline. At the very end there’s a monument as well as a few food outlets.
The MIA Park is next to the Museum of Islamic Art and is designed with a curved walkway.
Souk Al Waqif:
This is currently the main area in Doha where most of all the locals and tourists are. This is a fairly big bazaar style market selling things from spices to pets and also has a huge line of restaurants. The Souk Al Waqif has an ancient look to it, but it’s actually newly renovated to look that way. It is easily connected from the Museum of Islamic Art area via an underground tunnel which is walking distance from it.
The Souk Al Waqif is currently the busiest area in Qatar and where most people spend their time.
The Dhow harbour:
Qatar, like many cities that had harbour ports, has its own style of boats and ships that used to operate for many years. Although the ships may be new, they still have an ancient look and many of these are available for boat trips off the coast.
The ships look like they are very old but most of them are brand new.
This is an area constructed just off the coast in Doha with luxury residences and an entertainment area called the Qanat Quartier and Medina Centrale.
The Pearl has lots of exclusive residences and an entertainment area at the centre.
There are lots of retail style shops and restaurants located next to each other in a circular kind of design with canals around. This is the main area to spend time at when you are at the Pearl.
This is a small mall located in the Pearl area with retail and food options. If you are going to be in the Qanat Quatier area, you will definitely pass the Medina Centrale, and it’s definitely worth a stop.
The Medina Centrale is one of the entertainment areas located in the Pearl.
Katara Cultural Centre:
Although a lot of this area is still under construction, it seems to me that this will eventually be a huge entertainment area. The view of the Pearl from the beach area is also excellent. Walking around all these impressively designed buildings that were still under construction was enough of an experience, I can only imagine when they are all completed.
Somewhere around in the Katara Cultural Centre.
There’s still a lot of construction going on, although that shouldn’t put you off visiting.
Katara Mosque is a beautiful Mosque located at the Katara Cultural Centre.
Qatar National Library:
The Qatari government definitely did not go the cheap route when designing some their buildings! Even the National Library looks like a spaceship! It may be located a bit out of town, but the inside of this building is equally as stunning as the outside. There’s lots of seating areas available inside, as well as a café and also lots of books 🙂
The Qatari government were definitely not playing games when it came to designing buildings 😉
The inside of the Qatar National Library is just as beautiful as the outside.
This is a fairly large Mall situated next to the Khalifa Stadium. There are lots of food options and lots of exclusive retail outlets for those who love to shop. The Torch, which is an exclusive Hotel and currently the tallest building in Doha is also next to this.
Inside the Villagio Mall. It has many different exclusive retails shops and many restaurants as well.
If you do decide to spend a bit of more time in Doha and you want to get an experience off the beaten path, you can drive out of Doha. As you start going away from the city, the buildings start getting older and smaller, the roads start getting narrower, and eventually all you have next to you is a vast desert!
As you drive out of Doha, it gets more and more isolated and eventually all you have is a vast desert all around you.
Al Zubara Fortress:
Unlike most of Doha, which has been rebuilt into a brand new and modern City, this is one important part of Qatar’s history. It was a military Fortress that was built in 1938. Today it is a museum. There is big hole in the Fortress which was dug by hand in order to get drinking water at that time in such a remote part of the desert. If they dug too shallow there wouldn’t be any water, and if they dug too deep the water was too salty. The hole is still there today, except its been dry for many years.
The Al Zubara Fortress is an important part of Qatari history.
Inside the Al Zubara Fortress.
Zekreet Rock Formations:
When you are driving passed Zekreet, you will see these rock formations in the distance. In order to get to them you will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle. You can take a look at my article of my experience trying to get there with a car here.
There are many of these rock formations in the desert.
How long do you need in Qatar?
Honestly, you could see the majority of Doha in a day or 2 as it’s not really a huge city, and most of the areas you would want to visit are located quite conveniently with the way the city is constructed. If you could spend 3 full days that would be ideal.
Is Qatar expensive?
YES. If you don’t know what you are doing 😉 The food prices are a bit high, although there are lots of excellent choices, as it stands there are not too many fast food options. An ice cream cone from an Ice cream shop at the Souk Al Waqif cost me QR18. Hotel prices are quite reasonable for what you pay, so if you plan a bit and don’t over eat or over shop, it’s actually not that bad.
Where do you stay in Qatar?
The hotel industry is still up and coming in Qatar because of the World Cup. The selection of 5 Star hotels are not the greatest. I found most of them to have outdated 90’s style décor so watch carefully before you pay a premium for a “World Class” Hotel brand. In terms of location, staying anywhere near the Souk Al Waqif would be ideal as that to me is the “Central” of Doha currently, but as the construction goes on a lot can change very quickly.
Qatar is an excellent country to visit at the moment! Not too many people know how beautiful it is, and because of that you will have a lot of it to yourself! There will be lots of changes and improvements as the FIFA World cup arrives, but with that also comes the busloads of tourists with selfie sticks as well 😉