Qatar is known by many as a layover at Doha’s fabulous airport or a mere day stopover. For a couple of years, all I knew of Doha was the drive between the airport and the hotel. During the airport-hotel transfers, I’d notice Doha’s interesting elements that were enough to decide to give Qatar enough time to explore.
I especially love the architecture in Doha, by the way. The buildings aren’t your run of the mill square or rectangular boxes we so often see in London or New York. Doha’s buildings are inspiring and spark a creative mind’s imagination. Can you imagine a building touching you enough to make you decide to make a place a destination?
During my first extended stay in Qatar, I quickly received a warm welcome. Yes, the weather is beyond your normal hot and humid. In fact, when you outside expect to perspire and expect it to be part of the experience. What I really mean by warm welcome is the feeling I got from everyone in the city wherever I happened to be. I’m always met with smiles and a genuine sense of belonging. I especially appreciate being greeted with a handshake then placing the hand over the heart. There’s a warmth to the gesture that I find most endearing.
In Qatar you’ll discover a country rich in tradition yet you will discover it to be dynamic and exciting at the same time. The country is indeed a land of contrasts where contemporary sophistication melds beautifully with old world hospitality. Qatar is unexpected in so many wonderful ways. Think of the Middle Eastern land as a rich cultural tapestry waiting for you to discover.
If this isn’t enough to convince you to make Qatar your next destination, consider the following top reasons to visit.
Museum of Islamic Art
Mathaf Al-Fann Al-Islami (Museum of Islamic Art) houses one of the world’s most impressive collections of artworks crafted according to traditional styles from across the Middle East and central Asia. It’s in this museum you’ll find glorious decorated ceramics, glass and textile items, stunning carpets, metalworks and richly detailed antique manuscripts. The museum building is iconic, designed by architect, I.M. Pei. The Museum of Islamic Art building itself is a work of art both inside and out.
Curved around Doha Bay is a long waterfront officially called the Corniche. Enjoy splendid vistas of Doha, from the inspiring high rise buildings in the business district to the distinctive shapes of the Museum of Islamic Art. Traditional wooden dhows (boats) line the bay reminding us of Qatar’s seafaring past. The area is pedestrianized for a safe stroll from end to end.
Katara Cultural Village
I visited Katara Cultural Village out of curiosity. I reluctantly left the cultural centre wanting the same in my city. In fact, I want to conduct a photography workshop with the Qatar Photographic Society. Katara is a creative interpretation of the region’s architectural heritage. The village consists of a stunning amphitheatre, small theatres, various art and photographic galleries and performance venues where you can see concerts shows and exhibitions. All arts housed in one innovative place.
Souq Waqif (Shopping)
Doha offers shopping for any and all discerning shopaholic. You’ll find luxury brands galore and glorious scents not readily available in the western world. But, for an authentic taste of traditional commerce, make your way to Souq Waqif after the sun sets. Meander through the maze of small shops and vendors who offer anything from spices to perfumes, jewellery, clothing, Middle Eastern handicrafts or a treasure trove of trinkets. As you stroll through the souq, you’ll be treated to cultural shows, traditional music, and art. The atmosphere in the night air is eclectic and one not to miss.
For a true sense of Qatar’s terrain, be sure to set aside time for a desert safari. The largest area of sand dunes in Qatar lies to the southwest of Doha. The high dunes are brilliant for viewing, climbing – and if you’re adventurous, dune bashing. Like most dunes around the world, the desert scenery changes constantly with shifting winds. The colours of the sunset are especially breathtaking from the dunes and you’ll be treated to a change in the colour of the sand as well. And while you’re at the desert sand dunes, travel further south for the impressive Inland Sea, Khor Al Adaid. The sights are simply beautiful and ones you’ll remember long after you leave.
I offer only a handful of reasons to explore Qatar, though there is so much more to discover in this magnificent country. Not only will your senses be touched, but your mind is encouraged to think. As I visit Doha over and over again, I’ll update this page.
Where is Qatar?
GPS Coordinates of Doha Qatar :: 25.2854° N, 51.5310° E
Map Showing the Location of Qatar