Qatar is a country undergoing mass transformation. Once a poor British protectorate, goodbye was also long ago said to Qatar’s days as a mostly pearling state. Bouyed by significant wealth from its oil and gas reserves, Qatar is these days a country of affluence and extravagance.
It’s harder to miss a Mercedes than it is to see one and opulence is everywhere you turn with futuristic skyscrapers, luxurious spas and modern galleries littering the capital Doha. Still against the backdrop of sands dunes and coastline, and with a taste of Qatar’s marvelous cuisine in your mouth, those that dig can unravel a more traditional side to this awe-inspiringly modern Middle Eastern country.
Occupying an elongated peninsula on the eastern edge of Saudi Arabai, Qatar’s small geographic size means that most of the country’s attractions lie around Doha and it’s surrounding suburbs.
Doha is where 90% of Qatar’s population live and topping the list of must-see attractions in the capital is the Museum of Islamic Art. Even from the outside the iconic building is worth the visit alone but step within and you’ll find a dazzling collection of Islamic art covering territory from China to Morocco.
For a glimpse of old world Qatar, take in the majestic Doha Fort located then head to Souq Waqif, Doha’s main traditional market. Open mornings and evenings, observe the sights and sounds from the countless stalls selling everything from perfume and shisha pipes, to herbs, spices and traditional Qatari clothes. In particular make sure to seek out the bird market, Souq Waqif’s most exotic section.
One spectacle you won’t miss is the Qatari skyline. Littered with skyscapers, visitors to Qatar even have to opportunity to stay at the 56 floor InterContinental Hotel. Luxury is everywhere and it’s much harder to find a bad hotel than it is a good one in Doha.
A taste of the Middle East in Qatar
Mealtime is another thing to look forward to in Qatar. Middle Eastern cuisine is found everywhere from the souks to the up-market hotels. From kebabs, breads to hummus, the list of delights you’ll be able to sample in Qatar goes on and on.
For drinking too, Qatari is one of few countries in the Middle East with a wide variety of bars, and numbers of excellent if slightly expensive drinking establishments are located in Doha.
Getting to Qatar seems to get easier and easier thanks to the national carrier’s growth and even Sheik Hamad has had a hand in making Qatar Airways one of the world’s premium airlines. Several airlines fly to Doha, but Qatar Airways has the most connections with Doha as its hub and daily connections to Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and Australia.
When it comes time to travel make sure to check out Qatar’s event calendar. The country hosts many international events including the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Qatar Open tennis tournament and in 2022 Qatar will make history by being the first country in the Arab world to host the FIFA World Cup.