Qatar - Sightseeing
Get up, get out, and do something! Qatar is home to plentiful activities from parks to theme parks, malls, sports, beaches and dhow fishing trips. Read on to find out what to do on your next Qatar holiday.
Katara Cultural Village
Katara is a purpose-built cultural and recreational district located on a 99 hectare site on the West Bay waterfront to the north of Doha’s city centre. Designed in the traditional architectural style of the region, its facilities include a spectacular amphitheatre, state-of-the-art theatre and opera house, multi-purpose hall, libraries, galleries and academic institutes.
In addition to its schedule of superb cultural offerings, which include performances by leading regional and international artists (including Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra), plays, concerts, film festivals, and much more, Katara is a stand-alone entertainment destination in its own right. Its wide range of restaurants and cafes make it a popular dining spot. Among its noteworthy sights are traditionally-designed bird houses and two mosques, one of ornate Iranian design and the other covered entirely in gold tiles. Major outdoor attractions include a spacious and well maintained public beach with water sports facilities, which is ideal for family recreation.
Set among 500 acres with ¼ million visitors per year, Qatar's Aspire Zone boasts some of the world's finest sport stadia and venues offering unique sport arenas and activities. Get fit and make use of hundreds of free outdoor fitness equipment spread across the area. Enjoy a game of football, 14km of walking/jogging tracks, horse trail, bicycle track then unwind by the lake.
Museum of Islamic Art
The stunning Museum of Islamic Art is a treasure house containing a magnificent collection covering 14 centuries of the finest Islamic art and artefacts from across the Arabian Peninsula, Middle East, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, the Subcontinent, Far East, North Africa and Spain. It represents one of the jewels in Qatar’s growing reputation as the region’s ‘Capital of Culture’.
Designed by the celebrated architect IM Pei, the museum is housed in a dramatic modern building prominently situated in parkland along the Corniche waterfront. Its imaginatively presented displays cover a vast range of subject matter, including art works, ceramics, manuscripts, textiles, metal work, jewellery and much more.
The museum complex incorporates a gift shop and café. Admission to the permanent galleries is free, but there is an entry charge to any special exhibitions that may be running.
Singing Sand Dunes
Singing or humming can be heard in the sands of Qatar. A combination of abrasive sand, wind and moisture come together to create a wonderful, weird effect. This can be heard and felt when sliding down the face of a dune or along its crest. Or for a different kind of adventure, try Dune Bashing – a hairy scary, exhilarating ride through the dunes on a 4x4.
Shopping malls are a way of life in Qatar, opening from 10am to 10pm you are sure to find the shops to satisfy your shopping needs from family friendly to high fashion. Malls are a great leisure pastime offering cinemas, cafes, restaurants, kids play areas and more. Why not try The Mall, Viallaggio, Landmark Mall, The Pearl or The Gate Mall.
For a taste of lively street life, traditional commerce and local architecture, nothing can beat a wander down the bustling alleys of Doha’s main central market, Souq Waqif. Vibrant after sunset, the labyrinth of small shops offers a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and nuts to perfumes, clothing, utensils, handicrafts and a vast range of souvenirs - all at bargain prices. It is also a great place to relax over a coffee or meal and enjoy an extravaganza of music, art and family entertainment. Bargaining is a way of life in the Gulf States - you are generally not expected to pay the asking price so be a local and barter away!
While the souq’s buildings are new, the faithful use of traditional building methods and materials during its renovation in 2004, together with their architecture and design, create an authentic atmosphere of old Qatar. The sights, sounds and aromas evoke the flavour of a Bedouin market and visitors are sure to be captivated by the vitality and atmosphere of this special place.
Close to Katara is another striking new attraction, the spectacular man-made island of The Pearl with its impressive marina esplanades, luxury residential towers, town houses and villas. While some of its planned facilities, including hotels, are still to be completed, The Pearl merits inclusion among our ‘Highlights’ by virtue of the sheer luxury of its ambience, from high-end shops and fine dining to its Mediterranean-style yacht-lined waterfront walkways.
The Pearl will eventually comprises several distinct zones, each with its own architectural style. The most fully developed to date is Porto Arabia Towers, set around La Croisette, described as the ‘Arabian Riviera’. The area’s retail options include a large array of boutiques featuring the world’s leading luxury brands.
Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea)
Some 60 km from Doha in the south eastern corner of the country lies one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders, Khor Al Adaid, also known as the ‘Inland Sea’. A UNESCO recognized natural reserve, Khor Al Adaid is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by 4x4 vehicle across the high dunes. For most visitors the best way to experience the ‘Inland Sea’ is as part of one of the many organized desert safaris run by local tour operators.
UNESCO sums up the uniqueness of this natural phenomenon as follows, “The area presents a remarkable landscape and offers world-class scenic beauty in both the terrestrial and marine environments. The juxtaposition of large mobile dunes reaching the sea coast, where they spill into the sea, together with the large tidal embayment, in an arid tropical environment, has no known parallel in the Middle East or indeed elsewhere in the world.”
This seven-kilometre long waterfront promenade and park, stretching in a semi-circle around the entire length of Doha Bay, is one of the capital’s showpiece features. It not only offers spectacular vistas of the city – the beautifully-lit night skyline is especially dramatic - but also provides a major vehicle-free recreational space in the heart of the city, ideal for a jog in the cool of the morning, a relaxing family picnic or leisurely evening stroll.
Combined with the adjacent the parklands of Sheraton Park, Al Bidda Park, Rumeilah Park and the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art, the Corniche offers an attractive expanse of greenery. Meanwhile, in the waters offshore, wooden dhows in traditional design can be seen bobbing in the bay to provide a reminder of Qatar’s great seafaring and trading traditions. Many of these vessels are available for hire.
Al Zubara Fort
Located on Qatar’s north west coast 100 km from Doha, Al Zubarah is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site comprising the immaculately restored Al Zubarah Fort and surrounding 60-hectare archaeological site. The latter covers the remains of Al Zubarah town, built in the mid-18th century, which was in its prime not only the most important pearl diving and trading centre on the Qatar peninsula, but also one of the leading ports throughout the entire Gulf, with links extending across the Indian Ocean.
Al Zubarah’s success attracted the unwelcome attention of neighbouring powers and, after several attacks, it was eventually burned to the ground in 1811. It never fully recovered and was abandoned by the mid-20th century. A layer of sand blown from the desert has protected and preserved the remains of the town’s buildings. The only structure to survive is the Fort itself, originally built in 1838. It is an imposing square-shaped structure with towers at each corner.