The Middle East is quite an amazing place with its countless gems and beauties, magnificent heritage, incredible nature, and astounding personality, one can even dare to say it borders on mystical. So to stand out among this much beauty, can’t be easy. However, this is exactly what Qatar managed to do.
Although one of the smallest nations in the Middle East and around the Arabian Gulf, Qatar is one of the most luxurious countries in the region with an incredible variety of options of leisure and entertainment that suits the needs of any type of traveler.
No matter what you seek in a travel destination, there is almost a 100% chance that you’ll find it here. Effortlessly combining the traditional Eastern culture with the leisure and metropolitan nature of modern countries, this middle eastern gem offers something for everyone. If you seek luxury and leisure, the country’s capital is filled with world-class hotels, resorts, spas, and restaurants. If you seek adventure and edgy experiences, Qatar offers you everything from kayaking and dune bashing to skydiving. If you seek art and culturally enriching experiences, the museums, art galleries, and exhibitions will leave your mind and souls both humbled and amazed.
So before you start planning your trip to this Middle Eastern gem, here are a few things you ought to know first…
Best time to visit
One of the best things about Qatar is how warm and beautiful the weather is almost all year round. Thanks to its location on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, it features a mostly dry and subtropical climate with hot and humid summers and a very low chance of rainfall in the winter.
The weather can be generally divided into two seasons: the hot season from May to October and the cool season from December to February. Since the country’s Summer months tend to get very hot and humid, the best time to visit would usually be from December to February to enjoy the cooler temperatures and mild weather.
The country’s main airport is Doha Hamed International Airport in the capital city of Al Doha. The national airline of the country is Qatar Airways, linking it to more than 160 destinations worldwide. There are several other airlines that fly to and from Qatar such as Asiana, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Air India, Turkish Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and many more.
The country is quite a small country, about 160 kilometers from north to south and 80 kilometers from east to west. Therefore, it is fairly ideal to explore and wander around by car.
Most of the country’s roads radiate from the capital, Doha, and all roads are very well-maintained and are easy and enjoyable to travel. However, sudden weather changes such as sandstorms or sudden floods do affect the quality and safety of the roads, so beware of your timing.
Where to stay
As one of the most luxurious and metropolitan cities in the Middle East, Qatar’s capital, Doha is filled with a rich variety of 5-star hotels, resorts, and nightlife venues. Here is a list of some of the best and highest rated Hotels to choose from:
- Dusit Doha Hotel
- Marsa Malaz Kempinskii,The Pearl
- Four Season Hotel Doha
- Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel
- The Ritz-Carlton, Doha
- Kempinski Residences & Suites, Doha
- Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara
- InterContinental Doha Hotel, an IHG Hotel
- The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa
- Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel
Another accommodation option that is popularly favored by visitors is camping. A lot of tour organizers and operators organize an overnight camp in the desert near Khor Al Adaid so tourists can enjoy a taste of the traditional under a blanket of sparkling stars. So if you are looking for an authentic back-to-nature experience, you should definitely consider spending a night camping out in the exquisite Qatar desert.
The Food & Drinks Scene
As one of the most upcoming tourist destinations right now, Qatar has an impressively wide range of quality dining experiences. The fanciest and most luxurious options are usually found in 5-star hotels. Souq Wafiq is also a highly popular choice for food, especially Middle Eastern cuisines.
The country’s cuisine is highly influenced by several international cuisines such as the Indian, the Irani, the Levant, and the North African. Some of the most popular dishes and specialties of te country are Kousa Mahshi (stuffed zucchinis), Umm Ali (bread pudding with nuts and raisins), Ghuzi (a whole roast lamb served with rice and nuts), Mehalabiya (rose water and pistachio pudding), and of course the Machboos (slow-cooked muttons served with yogurt) which is considered to be the country’s national dish.
Some of the Best Restaurants:
- Damasca One
- Al Aker
- Al Jazeera Media Cafe
- Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge
Best Things to Do & See
Despite how small Qatar may seem, one dares to say it has just about everything one looks for in a trip destination, be it museums, beaches, local markets, high-end malls and shops, world-class nightlife venues, and of course, the famous rugged and raw nature the country is famous for. So let’s take a deeper look at some of the best and must-see attractions in this beautiful joker of a country…
The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
Designed by architect I.M Pei, the Museums of Islamic Art is built just off the city’s Corniche so it looks as it is floating on water from certain angles.
Inside, the museum has a unique and impressive collection of glassworks, textiles, ceramics, paintings, Islamic patterns, jewelry, and Calligraphy. Some of the items in this vast collection date back to the 7th century. You can easily view the museum’s incredible collection in any of the high-profile rotation exhibitions that are organized all year round by the museum.
For a one-of-a-kind culinary experience, try the food at Idam, the on-site three Michelin-starred restaurant run by French chef Alain Ducasse. Also, make sure to spare to for viewing the city of Doha from the outdoor terrace on the top floor of the museum as it offers a breathtaking and one-of-a-kind view of the city as well as high-end cuisine and highly-rated service.
Souq Waqif, Doha
You can’t visit Qatar without making time for exploring Doha’s iconic standing market, Souq Waqif where you will be able to jump back in time and get a true and rare sense of the old Qatar.
Souq Waqif has a lot of EVERYTHING; shops, local vendors, bazaars, workshops, traditional eateries and restaurants, and more. If you want to shop for some truly authentic Middle Eastern merchandise and themed souvenirs to bring back from your trip, then Souq Waqif should definitely be on your itinerary. There, you will find everything from fabric and handmade items to spices, perfumes, and traditional sweets and snacks. Of course, we can’t forget the vast collection of souvenirs and culturally themed products and accessories that will make for some truly memorable gifts for your loved ones back home.
Souq Waqif is also filled with traditional restaurants and a variety of cafes and traditional shisha lounges where you can relax and enjoy the authentic atmosphere and surroundings of the one and only Souq Waqif.
Doha’s Corniche & dhows
Although you may not think of a Corniche as an attraction, the beautiful Doha Corniche definitely is. Walking along the seven-kilometer Doha Corniche that stretches across the Persian Gulf is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. If talking is too plain an activity for you, you can opt for flying a kite, having a coffee while overlooking the pristine water of the Persian Gulf, or even working out on any of the fitness machines installed along the Corniche for public use.
To enjoy an even better view of the incredible capital, get a dhow ride at night to experience the city up close with no view obstructions.
You can’t visit Qatar without taking the time to reconnect with the pure rugged nature found only in the its sand desert. The Qatari desert offers what could be easily one of the most mesmerizing sunrise viewing experiences, in addition, of course, to the incredible stargazing conditions thanks to the clear night desert sky.
Another wildly popular activity to do in the desert is dune bashing and sand surfing. However, the sand dunes of this desert are as steep as they are high, so practice caution as you drive or surf up and down those steep sand dunes.
For a complete experience, you can spend the night in a luxury Arabian tent or pitch your own and enjoy a relaxing and enchanting night under the sparkling stars.
The East-West/West-East Artwork
Standing tall and alone in the empty desert land of the Barouq nature reserve, 60 kilometers northwest of Doha is the iconic East-West/West-East Artwork installation, created and envisioned by the international sculptor Richard Serra.
This incredibly unique artwork project is made up of four 15-meter tall steel plates standing firmly along a one-kilometer corridor from the desert to the sea.
Thanks to those four sculptures, people from all over the world flock to the Brouq nature reserve to see Serra’s artwork up close and capture a few shots against this one-of-a-kind backdrop.
The Pearl, Doha
The Pearl is an artificial island north of West Bay that spans nearly four million square meters. This man-made island off the coast of Doha has quickly become an icon and symbol for class, luxury, and lavish lifestyle.
The Pearl is filled with yachts, high-end shops and stores, and luxurious villas and mansions in lavish gated communities, giving you an in-depth look into the lifestyle lived by the Qatari upper class.
That’s not all you will find when you pay a visit to the Pearl, this rightfully nicknamed ‘Arabian Riviera’ is filled with a variety of waterfront high-end restaurants serving international haute cuisine, high-class entertainment, and some of the best and classiest cruise options found anywhere in all of Qatar.
The Katara Cultural Village, Doha
Also known as the Valley of Cultures, the Katara Culture Village acts as a beacon to all tourists and natives alike who seek an incomparable feast of culture, science, history, and art of all sorts.
Located on the way to The Pearl, this Valley of Cultures comprises a maze of passages and waterways that go through it featuring several spaces for artists, photographers, and even filmmakers. Thanks to those several and multiple activities and cultural displays, the Katara Cultural Village is considered to be the best place in the country to get a pure taste of the Qatari culture and heritage, as well as other cultures and traditions.
You can never run out of things to do in this incredible cultural gem as it has everything you might need to visit during your stay: an opera house, art galleries, an amphitheater, heritage centers, and several academic facilities.
That’s not all, the Katara Cultural Village also holds multiple festivals such as the Palestinian Heritage Festival and the famous Traditional Dhow Festival, this is in addition to concerts and musical performances, the most popular of which are those done by the iconic Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.
On top of all previously mentioned, the Katara Cultural Village offers a variety of culinary options from international restaurants, cafes, and food stands.
Jump Out Of an Airplane with Skydiving Doha
You probably thought Qatar is all about luxurious restaurants, high-end shopping malls, and culturally-enriching museums. However, as we have repeatedly elaborated, this country has something for everyone, even adrenaline junkies and adventure-seekers.
So after pampering your mind with a rich meal of art and culture, ditch the classy clothes, strap on a parachute and get ready to shock your heart and soul with an intensive shot of pure adrenaline by jumping out of an airplane and flying above the vast and breathtaking city of Doha.
It will probably put your mind at ease to know that Skydiving Qatar has a perfect safety record and their instructors are highly experienced so you can embark on that adventure knowing you’ll be in very good and capable hands.
Al Thakira Mangroves
This is another wonder of this small yet vast country and one of the country’s most unique and iconic spots to visit, the Mangroves of Al Thakira is a large area of water and greenery in the middle of the sandy dry desert.
Incredibly enough, this stand-alone land of plants and water is, in fact, filled with birdlife, herons and flamingos have been even known to migrate there for years.
The best way to enjoy the mangroves and take it all in is by renting a kayak and experiencing the unique surroundings. You will easily forget you are, in fact, in the desert.
After having the time of your life in Qatar, don’t hesitate to check out what else the Middle East has in store for you. The area promises not to disappoint.