One of the Middle East’s most rapidly growing tourist destinations, Qatar presents the visitor with a kaleidoscope of fascinating contrasts. The following selection of ‘must see’ highlights offers a taste of the country’s rich variety of attractions.
This 7-km long waterfront promenade and park, stretching in a semi-circle around the entire length of Doha Bay, is one of the capital’s showpiece features. It not only offers spectacular vistas of the city – the beautifully-lit night skyline is especially dramatic – but also provides a major vehicle-free recreational oasis, ideal for a jog in the cool of the morning, a relaxing family picnic or a leisurely evening stroll. Off the Corniche, the traditional wooden dhows bobbing in the bay are available for leisure cruises.
For an authentic taste of lively street life, traditional Arab commerce and local architecture, nothing can beat a wander down the bustling alleys of Doha’s central market, Souq Waqif. The labyrinth of small shops offers a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and nuts to perfumes, clothing, utensils, handicrafts and a vast range of souvenirs – all at bargain prices. It is also a great place to relax over a coffee or meal, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy an extravaganza of music, art and family entertainment.
Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is a treasure house containing a magnificent collection covering 14 centuries of the finest Islamic art and artefacts from across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. It represents one of the jewels in Qatar’s growing reputation as the region’s ‘Capital of Arts and Culture’ and ranks internationally among the world’s leading cultural landmarks. Designed by the celebrated architect IM Pei, the museum is housed in a dramatic modern building prominently situated along the Corniche waterfront.
Katara Cultural Village
Katara is a purpose-built cultural and recreational district along the coast north-west of the city centre. A modern interpretation of the rich architectural heritage of Arabia, Katara is ideal for a relaxing day of culture, entertainment and family fun. Its impressive theatres and performance venues feature leading regional and international artists and stage plays, concerts, film festivals and much more. Recreational options include an extensive and well-tended beach with water sports facilities and a myriad of restaurants and cafes.
Close to Katara is another striking new attraction, the spectacular man-made island of The Pearl-Qatar with its impressive marina esplanades, luxury towers and villas. While some of its planned facilities, including hotels, are still to be completed, the sheer opulence of the Pearl’s ambience, high-end boutiques, fine dining and Mediterranean-style waterfront walks make it a special experience.
Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea)
Some 60 km from Doha in the south-eastern corner of the country lies one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders, Khor Al Adaid, also known as the ‘Inland Sea’. A UNESCO recognised nature reserve, it is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by 4×4 across the high dunes. For most visitors, the best way to experience this unique Qatari phenomenon is as part of one of the many organised desert safaris run by local tour operators.
Located on Qatar’s north-west coast 100 km from Doha, Al Zubarah is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of international significance. It comprises the immaculately restored Zubarah Fort and surrounding 60-hectare archaeological site covering the remains of a historic walled coastal town built in the mid-18th century. Al Zubarah was at one time not only the most important pearl diving and trading centre on the Qatar peninsula, but also one of the leading ports throughout the entire Gulf, with links extending
across the Indian Ocean. The Fort houses a visitor centre.