Located on the west coast of the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a fascinating country typified by sweeping desert dunes and ethereal natural reserves such as the ‘inland sea’ at Khor al Udaid, 80 km southeast of the capital, Doha. Once a major oyster-diving enclave, the country now benefits from having some of the world’s largest natural gas reserves and thrives under the rule of the Āl Thānī dynasty.
The best things to do in Qatar include visiting the desert outside the capital, where you can experience a camel safari, an offroad 4 x 4 trip, or a trip down a 60-metre-high dune on a sandboard.
On the northeast coast, hundreds of Neolithic rock carvings adorn the limestone hills of Jabal Jassasiya. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the remains of the walled town of Al Zubara, a former 18th-century pearling community in the northwest, offers a glimpse into an 18th-century trading centre.
On Qatar’s east coast, the striking capital city of Doha epitomizes modern Arabian affluence and architecture. The West Bay area harbours a considerable expat community, as well as the most exclusive dining and shopping in Qatar. Luxury retailers flourish at the Gate Mall and on the man-made island of Pearl-Qatar.
Locals and visitors alike gather at lively Souq Waqif, where vendors offer goods from silks and spices to Bedouin weavings and embroidered textiles. It’s also a destination where you can try traditional Qatari food. Cafés in the souq’s narrow lanes also serve everything from Lebanese flatbreads and Egyptian kushari to fresh fruit juices.
One of the best things to do in Qatar is to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the waterside Doha Corniche, where the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art houses treasures spanning 1,400 years. The museum’s collection of Islamic art is considered one of the most complete in the world. MIA Park overlooks the harbour, where traditional dhow fishing boats bob next to speeding high-powered jet skis.
To extend your visit to Qatar, plan to attend the Shahaniya camel racetrack, an hour from the capital, and venture out with a guide to admire desert-rose gypsum formations and explore the country’s broad sabkha salt flats.
Qatari people offer warm hospitality to visitors while encouraging adherence to conservative customs. The dress code for females includes loose-fitting clothing, covering the body from knees to shoulders, and the wearing of headscarves in religious institutions. Pashminas, capri pants and leggings make suitable attire for travellers.