The best things to do in Qatar
Qatar is a small, but fascinating, country located in the Middle East, close to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Often overshadowed by its neighbours, it is a hidden gem that has a lot to offer visitors. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world since the discovery of gas and oil in 1940. Before that, pearl diving was one of the main trades there. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place there later this year, interest in Qatar is growing rapidly.
The climate in Qatar is extremely hot and dry, with temperatures often reaching over 40 degrees Celsius in the summer months. However, this is offset by the fact that Qatar has some of the best beaches in the world, where you can cool down whenever it gets too hot.
Although it is predominantly Muslim, Qatar is home to a large number of expats from all over the world. This makes it a very cosmopolitan and diverse country. I visited Doha in Qatar a few years ago when I flew to Istanbul in Turkey via Qatar Airways.
Here are the best things to do in Qatar
1. Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
One of the top attractions in Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art is a must-visit for anyone interested in Islamic art and culture. Housed in a striking building designed by architect I.M. Pei, the museum boasts one of the biggest and most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world, spanning 3 continents and over 1400 years. The museum’s collection includes everything from calligraphy and ceramics to textiles and coins.
2. Experience the vibe at Souq Waqif
One of Qatar’s oldest and most famous markets, Souq Waqif is a great place to browse for souvenirs and experience traditional Qatari culture. The souq is especially lively at night, when locals and tourists alike come to eat, drink, and be entertained. You will find everything from traditional Arabic spices to modern designer clothes at Souq Waqif. Haggling is expected so be sure to brush up on your bargaining skills before you visit.
3. Relax on The Pearl Qatar
One of Qatar’s man-made islands, The Pearl Qatar is a great place to enjoy some upscale shopping and dining, as well as relax on one of its many beaches. With its luxurious hotels and apartments, The Pearl is also one of the best places to stay in Qatar if you’re looking for luxury accommodation.
4. Walk along the Doha Corniche
This 7 km waterfront promenade stretches around Doha Bay, offering panoramic views of the clear waters. The best time to walk here is around sunrise or sunset when the weather is cooler and the lighting is perfect for photos. There are parks, restaurants and cafes along the Corniche and you can also hop onto a dhow cruise.
5. Go on a Desert Safari
No trip to Qatar would be complete without experiencing the desert landscape first-hand. There are plenty of companies offering desert safaris, which typically include activities like dune bashing, sandboarding, camel riding, and quad biking.
6. Tour historical Al Zubarah Fort
Al Zubarah Fort is a historic military fortress and UNESCO world heritage site in the deserted town of Al Zubarah, outside Doha. Built in 1938, it provides important insights about life in Qatar before the discovery of gas and oil. You can explore the fort at your own pace or join a guided tour for more information about its history and significance.
7. Visit Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
This museum is located about an hour outside of Doha but is well worth the drive. The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum showcases over 15 000 items from the private collection of its namesake sheikh and includes everything from traditional Bedouin weaponry and handmade carpets to antique cars.
8. Visit The National Museum of Qatar
This museum is housed in a stunning building designed by architect Jean Nouvel. It tells the story of Qatar’s past, present, and future through a range of interactive exhibits. Visitors can learn about the country’s geology, history, culture, and ecology, as well as see some amazing artifacts from Qatar’s past.
9. Enjoy the delicious food
Qatar is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. From Michelin-starred dining to local favorites, there is something for everyone. Michelin-starred restaurants include Nobu Doha, Opus at Park Hyatt, and Al Hubara Restaurant. Other local favourites include Al Mahara and Al Mourjan.
10. Indulge in some retail therapy
Qatar is rapidly becoming one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world. It is home to some world-class shopping malls, including Villagio Mall, which was named one of the world’s best shopping malls by Forbes magazine. For those who want to shop like a local, there are also many traditional souqs (marketplaces) where visitors can bargain for everything from spices to scarves.
What are you waiting for? Book your NextVacay flight to Qatar and explore this incredible country.
5 things all visitors should know about Doha before they go
- With year-round sunshine, temperatures averaging 30 degrees Celsius and beautiful sandy beaches lined with palm trees, Doha certainly isn’t short of postcard-perfect photo opportunities!
- A melting pot of cultures, most of Doha’s population are expats from all corners of the globe – meaning English is widely spoken and communication is easy for visitors from English-speaking countries.
- Arabic coffee served with dates is something of a national speciality and certain to be offered whenever you visit someone’s home.
- If you want to fit in with the locals when dining out then ordering ‘kabsa’ – rice cooked with meats and vegetables. We tried it and it was delicious.
- Visitors should dress conservatively and respect local customs by keeping shoulders and knees covered (for both men and women).