Qatar isn’t the top location for most on their vacation plans; admittedly, I have had only one visitor while I lived here. Of course, most of my friends and family live really far away! However, there are so many amazing things to do here.
Despite what you may have heard, there are tons of things to do in Qatar. There is something for everyone here, no matter what your interests include.
For the Culture lover – We have a beautiful museum, the Museum of Islamic Art. It houses a stunning collection of Islamic artifacts from around the region. If that isn’t enough for you, the building was built by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei. The cafe in the museum offers stunning views of downtown Doha and offers an Alain Ducasse restaurant, IDAM, upstairs. It gets even better because the entrance to the museum is free!
Katara Cultural Village is another place the cultural enthusiast should not miss out on. Katara showcases the history and culture of Qatar and other countries. Every week something is going on out there. This week there is QatArt, which is a handmade market and a Diversity Festival. There are also great restaurants here as well as a beach. Usually, several art exhibitions are going on, and there is an amphitheater.
More of a music lover? Qatar has something for you too! Qatar has an excellent Philharmonic Orchestra. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra features both Western and Arab music and plays all over the city, including the Museum of Islamic Art and Katara. At the Museum of Islamic Art, the chamber concerts are free and usually have a fun theme. One time when I went, they played popular movie theme songs.
In addition to the orchestra, we have Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha. What is that, you say? Basically, Jazz at Lincoln Center has a branch here, and they bring amazing jazz players and singers from all over the world to play at the St. Regis Hotel and the Museum of Islamic Art Park. Do you see a theme emerging yet?
For the Outdoorsman – I wasn’t much of an outdoor person before I moved to Qatar, but that has all changed since moving here. Since much of the year, it is too hot to be outside, when it is nice, we want to spend much of our time outside. I even bought a Jeep, so I could go off-roading, and you can hire drivers to take you dune bashing! This is one of my favorite things to do here. The landscape here is amazing. It changes depending on which part of the country you are in. You can even see art in the desert or slide down some singing sand dunes. Shockingly, I enjoy camping here since there are few things to be afraid of in the desert. Here is a short clip of some off-roading I did over the weekend. The video is courtesy of Mahmoud Masoud.
Believe it or not, you can also find green areas in Qatar and wildlife. One of my favorite destinations for this is Purple Island. Purple Island is about a 40-minute drive outside of Doha and is surrounded by mangroves. You can walk out to the island. While there, you can see flamingos, fish, and crabs. If you get there early in the day, you might just be there by yourself! In the nearby town, Al Thakira, you can go kayaking in the mangroves as well.
Sometimes you just want to relax at the beach. My favorite beach in Qatar is Fuwairit Beach. The beach has soft sand and has deep enough areas to swim. When the tide is out, you can walk out and explore the Gulf ocean floor. People like to go kite surfing here, and it is fun to watch them ride the wind. Fuwairit Beach is about an hour’s drive north of Doha, but in my opinion, it is the best beach in Qatar. It is also home to Hawksbill Sea Turtles in the summer. Every year they come to lay their eggs, and they are heavily protected here, so the beach may be closed in the summer when the turtles come to lay their eggs.
For the People Watcher – One of my favorite activities to do while traveling is people-watching and Qatar is one of the best places for it! My favorite spot in Doha and my favorite spot for people-watching is Souq Waqif. This is the traditional souq or market here in Doha. Much of it was falling down, so the Father Emir had it restored, and it is now one of the best places to visit in Qatar. You can shop, you can eat, you can visit camels and falcons, or you can smoke shisha. And you can do it all in one day. Many times, I go and eat in one place and then move to a coffee shop to watch people go by. It is an excellent place to watch Qataris and other Gulf citizens as they seem to prefer going there to eat rather than a fancy hotel. I like trying to guess what country they are from. On most nights there is some kind of parade of horses or music, and there is frequently festivals, especially around the holiday times.
The Corniche also offers great people-watching opportunities. The Corniche is the bay of Doha essentially. It is crescent-shaped and reaches from the Museum of Islamic Art to downtown Doha or what we call West Bay. The road follows the shape, and there is a nice walking path for the entire length. Locals and expats alike walk this at all times of the day. At night, the dhow boats are lit up and are fun to watch zip around the bay.
If you want a spectacular view of downtown Doha, then make your way to the Museum of Islamic Art Park. Walk out to the cafe and you can see the entire skyline of downtown in one shot. This is another place that offers great people watching and of the boats. If you look up, you can watch the planes take off as the flight path is near to the park, and there isn’t much noise.
For the Foodie – Qatar is home to so many expats from so many countries, it means we get authentic food from many countries. On top of that, we have lots of 5-star hotels with world-class dining in Doha. My favorite restaurants include Thai Snack, which is a hole-in-the-wall place that serves authentic and cheap Thai food; for upscale, I like Spice Market at the W Hotel and if you are celebrating something big and don’t mind spending lots of money, then head to Nobu at the Four Seasons. It is part of the chain of Nobu restaurants owned in part by Robert DeNiro and is probably the best meal I have ever had. Several of my fellow Qatar Bloggers are food bloggers and will definitely steer you in the right direction of food in Qatar; there is a link below to their blogs.
For the Person Who Wants to Do it All – The real beauty of Qatar being so small is that you can do all of these things in a short space of time. You might have noticed that many of these things are located within other venues I have mentioned, and the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, and the Corniche are all within walking distance of each other. So don’t be afraid, do it all and more. These are only a handful of my favorite things to do and see in Qatar.
After having lived here and traveling to several other Middle Eastern countries, I think that Qatar is unique. We are somewhere between the glamour and glitz of Dubai and conservative Saudi Arabia with the sophistication of the world brought to you by well-traveled expats and locals. Each person here has brought a piece of their country or heritage to Qatar, which has shaped into what it is now, a great place to visit!
What do you think? Will you visit Qatar?