18 Awesome and Thrilling Experiences to have in Qatar
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Qatar, like all Middle Eastern countries, is full of exotic and memorable experiences. The history of Qatar is rich and varied. While most Qataris have nomadic Bedouin origins, the towns and villages they established became flourishing pearling centers in the early 18th century and pearl diving was extremely profitable for Qatar. Later the discovery of oil and gas in the region changed the pace of development and has launched Qatar as the richest country in the world. While it is a small country and visitors mostly concentrate their holidays in and around Doha, Qatar promises a range of experiential travel opportunities throughout its borders. Here are some of the best experiences in Qatar:
Step back in time and explore the treasures of Souq Waqif
Sounds Waqif is Doha’s best place to shop, understand the local culture, dine, and people watch. The Souq is a reconstructed old market and very charming on the eyes. The Souq has everything from souvenirs and restaurants for tourists to groceries, apparel, and household goods for the locals. The Souq is a good place to settle with a shisha or steaming hot cup of tea or coffee and relax. The sights, sounds, smells, and activity inside the market are one of Doha’s greatest tourist attractions.
Indulge in a Desert Safari with dune bashing, camel rides, and sleeping under the stars
Dune bashing in Khor Al Udeid or Qatar’s inland sea is a memorable experience. Many variations of the Desert Safari are available but to make the best of your time, indulge in full day or overnight one. The safari begins with dune bashing over the sand dunes at Khor Al Udeid in a 4 by 4 vehicle. After the safari visitors can enjoy desert rides, swim in the inland sea, see falcons and hold them, and camp in a luxury Bedouin tent.
Search for the beautiful teapot sculpture in the West Bay area
West Bay area is home to Doha’s beautiful skyline and in the middle of it all is the beautiful teapot sculpture. There are teapot and tea motifs all over Qatar and drinking the hot, spicy Karak tea is an indispensable part of Qatari culture. The teapot sculpture is a tribute to that tradition. The view of the Skyline with the teapot sculpture in the foreground is very beautiful and worth experiencing when in Doha.
View the skyline and the Corniche by taking a dhow ride
Doha’s beautiful skyline is one of the most promising ones in the Middle East and its Corniche or the waterfront promenade with palm-lined sidewalks, open streets, and beautifully landscaped green spaces is a delight. The Corniche and city skyline both line the turquoise waters of the Doha Bay and the best way to enjoy the views are by a cruise in the traditional Qatari fishing boat called the dhow. The sunset dhow rides are especially popular as they have a spectacular view of the glowing skyline.
Visit one of its kind Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
This private museum in Qatar showcases the personal collection of Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, a wealthy sheik of Qatar. This unique museum is not dedicated to any single type of objects but has a little bit of everything that the Sheikh found worthy of collecting. Consequently, the museum has religious books, textiles, vintage American cars, motorbikes, boats, musical instruments, fossils, carpets, etc.
Be awed by the East-West / West-East sculpture in the middle of the desert
In the middle of the Qatari desert is a surreal art experience in the form of American artist and sculptor Richard Serra’s East-West / West-East sculpture. This set of 4 impossibly grand and tall steel plates is installed in the midst of the desert and awes visitors from their first sight. Located in the Brouq Nature Reserve near Zekreet, the sculpture is 60 kms away from Doha and visitors need to hire a car or take a tour to see the desert sculpture.
Admire treasures of the past at Museum of Islamic Arts
Museum of Islamic Arts is Qatar’s premier museum dedicated to preserving and displaying Islamic Arts through the centuries. The collection consists of artifacts from Asia, Europe, and Africa; entire rooms are devoted to patterns in architecture, apparel, calligraphy, scientific instruments, and more. This is a great place to learn about the visual arts produced under the patronage of Islamic rulers in varied parts of the world. Of equal interest is the architecturally stunning building of the Museum.
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al-Zubarah Fort
Al-Zubarah Fort, located in the ancient town of Zubarah, has the distinction of being Qatar’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1938, this historic military fort initially served as the Coast Guard station. Later it was converted into a museum and holds important archeological findings. The entire town of Zubarah is an archeological site that preserves the remains of a flourishing pearling village and an important trading post. The fort is designated as a UNESCO site because it is the best-preserved example of a large merchant town on the Persian Gulf. To visit the Al-Zubarah Fort, you need to venture outside of Qatar and travel for about 100 km to the northwest coast.
Attend a camel race in Doha’s Al-Shahaniya racetrack
To enjoy the thoroughly Middle-Eastern experience of camel racing, you should visit the Al-Shahaniya racetrack, an hour away from Doha. Camel racing originated as the sport of the sheiks around the 8th-9th century and today has evolved into a fiercely competitive and expensive sport. The racetrack in Qatar holds events during fall and winter (October to April) on Fridays. Watching the camels race each other with robot jockeys controlling them is a unique experience.
Understand the tradition of falconry and hold a falcon on your arm
The tradition of falconry has its origins in Qatar’s Bedouin heritage. In ancient times, falcons caught food for the nomadic tribes and were a means of feeding the family. In the modern age, falconry is practiced as a sport and only the richest of Qataris can afford the expensive falcons and their upkeep. The best place to experience and understand falconry is the Falcon Souq in Doha, located off Souq Waqif. In the souq, you will find falcons and falconry accessories for sale and even a falcon hospital that takes care of the expensive birds.
Luxuriate in a relaxing spa massage
As Doha has evolved into a modern 21st-century city with rising skyscrapers and majestic shopping malls, a host of luxurious spa resorts have come up to provide a variety of massage and relaxation services for expats and rich clientele. Most international luxury spa resorts have a presence in Doha and tourists and honeymooning couples can get a range of services including diamond and gold facials and massages.
Bird watch at the Al Thakira mangroves
Located near Al Khor, the Al Thakira mangroves are great for outdoor enthusiasts and ecotourism visitors to Qatar. This large patch of vegetation in the desert environment draws many birds including flamingos and herons due to its unique ecosystem. The mangroves are best explored by kayaking through the trees and specialized eco operators offer a range of tours.
Eat your pick of multicultural cuisines
As Doha has grown into a great expat town, the fine dining opportunities in the city have vastly multiplied. The city has become home to a host of multicultural dining establishments. Many of the popular restaurants are located in Souq Waqif, along with the Corniche or in Katara Cultural Village. The Friday buffet meals, in particular, are especially popular as they offer an array of items at a fixed price. If you want to venture beyond the Qatari cuisine, you can try Indian, Iraqi, Lebanese, and even Moroccan dishes in Qatar.
Admire the architecture at Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village, named after the ancient name (Katara) of Qatar, is a specially planned cultural district that displays the rich Qatari style of architecture. Katara is very beautiful and romantic at night with flickering soft, mellow lights lighting up the sandstone architecture and music drifting down art galleries and restaurants. Katara also has a well-designed mosque, multi-cultural restaurants, and a beach.
Explore the Barzan Towers
Completed in 1916, the sand-colored Barzan Towers served as fortified lookout watchtowers and an observatory in ancient times. Barzan Towers underwent thorough restoration in 2003 and are magnificent structures in the remote desert. The towers are built in traditional Qatari architecture style and are great to explore on your own.
See the Aspire Tower at night
Aspire Tower, more popularly known as The Torch, Doha is one of the most photographed buildings in the country. Famous for its intriguing shape, the tower is currently the tallest skyscraper in Doha. Aspire Tower contains a hotel and 360-degree revolving restaurant, only one of its kind in Qatar. The Aspire Tower looks very beautiful at night when it is lit up and we recommend taking a stroll through the adjacent Aspire Park to photograph The Torch in its full glory.
Aspire Tower, Doha (Photo CC2.0 Wikipedia Commons /Jaseem Hamza)
Get the Riviera experience at the Pearl
The Pearl is an ultra-luxury artificial island built on the Doha Bay. The Pearl offers an essentially French Riviera-esque experience and has private yachts rental cruises and grand marinas, luxury homes, and resorts, boutique stores for luxury brands, and a bevy of fine restaurants. The Pearl is the best place to spot celebrities in Doha.
Indulge in world-class shopping
Akin to Dubai, Doha has an unparalleled shopping experience for shopaholics. If you cannot imagine a vacation without shopping, then Doha is the place for you. From luxury boutiques to swanky outlets and from ancient souqs to modern malls, Doha is full of every kind of shopping experience. Some of the best places to shop include the traditional Souq Waqif, the Venice-styled Villagio Mall, the glamorous Pearl-Doha, and the bargain hub of Doha Festival City – home to Qatar’s first Ikea.