Sightseeing In Qatar
There is a lot to do here in Qatar, you just have to get out there and find it!
The Corniche is a focal point in Qatar and runs for seven kilometres alongside the coast from Ras Abu Abboud to the Sheraton Hotel. It’s a pleasant place to stroll (or jog!) and admire the ever developing skyline of Doha!
Doha Zoo houses over 1,500 animals and covers a 42 hectare area located on Al Furousiya Street. There are lots of grassed areas for picnics and also a children’s play area. Opening times are 8am to 12pm then 2.30pm to 7.30pm every day except Friday mornings. Note that Tuesday afternoons are only for ladies and children and Wednesday afternoons is for families.
The souqs are a must to visit; you will need time to familiarize yourself with them as there are numerous souqs around Qatar. The most famous are the ‘old souqs’ more commonly known as Souq Waqif, which is a maze of tiny alley ways loaded with shops, whose wares are spilling out onto the pavement. They sell an array of goods from spices to shoes and traditional Arabic goods. This is also where the falcon souq is located, a fascinating place housing some birds with price tags of QR30,000 and more!
The gold souqs are located behind the Alfardan Centre which is just off of Grand Hamad Street. They are a collection of jewellery shops selling an amazing array of gold and jewels. You can also get any piece of your own design made or take along a picture of a well known piece and one of the skilled craftsmen will copy it. Gold in Qatar is much cheaper than in many other countries and a visit to the souqs will ensure you return home with a unique piece.
There are now a good variety of malls in Doha and strolling through them is a favourite pastime, especially during the summer. Many supermarkets are located within malls and all have restaurants and/or food courts. Malls here are incredibly clean and have free parking where for around QR10 you can get your car cleaned while you shop! There is no bartering at the malls, the price you see is the price you pay and in some of the designer shops goods don’t even have a price tag! A case of if you have to ask you can’t afford it?! There are a good variety of shops here and also many well known names such as Debenhams, Boots, Next, Marks and Spencer and Bhs.
Qatar is home to some of the world’s top named five star hotels and with an ever growing tourist industry many new hotels are currently under construction.
Friday brunches are a favourite with expats as the majority of shops don’t open until the afternoon. Most of the top hotels do a wine or champagne inclusive brunch and along with fresh lobster, giant prawns and chocolate fondue fountains they really must be seen to be believed. A Friday brunch is not something to be rushed as there are so many delicious dishes to try, if you have children take them along as many of the hotels have a supervised children’s play area. Some of the more popular hotels are the Four Seasons, InterContinental, Marriott, Movenpick, Sharq Village, Sheraton and The Ritz-Carlton.
There are many more things to do in Qatar including Dhow trips, horse (and camel!) racing, and numerous forts and museums to visit; the most renowned being the Museum of Islamic Art which opened in 2008 and houses priceless pieces from across the Middle East dating from the seventh to the nineteenth century.
Qatar also hosts some major sporting events including the Qatar Open (attracting some of the biggest names in tennis) and the Qatar Masters Golf Tournament (where in 2009 18 of the top 50 golfers in the world played). Qatar also plays host to many other sporting events and the charge to watch these events is either free or minimal.
Beaches and Resorts
The Arabian Gulf extends across Qatar’s coastline with many wonderful beaches but only Hotel owned beaches have any facilities. Many of the other beaches are isolated so pack everything you need to have a good time. A First Aid kit may come in handy. Almost all the beaches have shallow waters; known beaches are Al Ghiriya Beach, Al Thakhira Beach, Dukhan Beach, French Beach, Fuwairit Beach, Ras Abouq Beach and Umm Bab Beach.
Sealine Resort is by far the most popular resort offering all the amenities and refreshments while boasting a beautiful coastline.
For an exhilarating and dizzying experience, dunebashing in Qatar is the answer. Khor Al Udeid boasts some impressive dunes reaching 50 meters in height. Ascending and descending on these seemingly vertical sand walls is sure to cause even the most brave to whimper. No doubt the best way to experience Dunebashing is with an experienced driver.
Forts and Mosques
Numerous Forts and Mosques can be found around Qatar giving you a wonderful insight to the countries culture, history and heritage.
Borj Barzan Fort
Borj Barzan Fort was built in the 19 Century to protect the water reservoir in the Umm Salaam Mohamed area. To facilitate this protection two distinguishable watch towers jutting about 20 metres high were erected on either side.
Al Ghuwair Castle
Situated about 85 km from Doha, Al Ghuwair Castle these days mostly consists of ruins. The thick 130 cm walls are still visible in some parts giving the visitor an idea of what it looked like in the 19th century.
Al Rekiyat Fort
Not much is known about this fort, the structure simply consists of the traditional square with 3 circular towers about 12 m high.
Umm Salal Mohamed Fort
Built in the 19th Century about 25 km north of Doha stands the Umm Salal Mohamed Fort. The solid structure with large impermeable walls was designed as a residential Fort.
Local fisherman and Pearl divers built this mosque in 1938. The Mosque was built with an unusual design of overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone. The roof was finished with a layer of compressed mud. This mosque served a dual function as it served as a place for prayer, but also a center for education. The original prayer area is situated on the west side of the courtyard and the original educational area is just in front of it. The school area today serves as the home of the ‘Muezzin’, who is responsible for the call to prayer.
Prayers are still conducted in this mosque till today and visitors are advised not take pictures or enter during prayer times.
Al Zubarah Fort and Town
This abandoned town dating back to the 17th century was once a prosperous fishing and pearling town. Many of its early inhabitants migrated from Iraq and Persia. After several invasions in the 18th century the city was finally destroyed. Archaeological digs have begun and already there have been artefacts and ruins discovered. Al Zubara Fort is a famous archaeological site. The fort was built in 1938 during the reign of Sheik Abdullah bin Jassim al Thani. The structure has high impermeable walls forming a square with huge Circular towers located at the corners. The fort served as a military base until recently.
Jabal Al Jassassiya
The Jabal Al Jassassiya area is a mysterious one that has abstruse petro glyphs and rare stone carvings. Similar rock carvings have been found in Italy (Val Camonica), Norway (Alta) and Kazakhstan (Tamgaly); however, the collections found at Al Jassassiya are bewildering and are in excellent condition. Do some research on the other petro glyphs as guides are not always available, this will help you have a deeper understanding and make the visit more more enjoyable.
Al Koot Fort
On the Corner of Jasmin bin Mohammed and al Qalaa Street, close to Souk Waqif, Doha, lies the white fort built in 1927. The white North African style fort served to protect the souk and was a military base. It's distinguishing feature is the wall-less and roofless courtyard mosque enabling the guards of the time to keep an eye on the praying prisoners. Visits can be arranged as the Fort is open by appointment only. Contact number: 4442 4143
Qatar National Museum
This is Qatar’s largest national museum that portrays Qatar’s local history, effectively giving you glimpse into Qatar’s rich traditional past. It was built in 1907 as a residence for Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al- Thani. In the 1970’s it was restored and used as a museum. Its restoration won the Agha Khan Award for Renovation Excellence. It displays archaeological relics, a military exhibition from the ruling family and a beautiful reconstruction of a traditional Bedouin tent. The Museum is situated on the Corniche close to the perfume bottles round-about. Contact Number: 4444 2191.