Located in the Arabian Gulf, Qatar shares a land borders with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the south-west and is surrounded by the Arabian sea. The Global Peace Index ranks features Qatar as one of 30 most peaceful countries in the world, and the most peaceful in the MENA region.
The country is currently focusing all its efforts on the growth and development of its people. The rulers of Qatar envision a future for their nation where every individual will have a high standard of living by acquiring the best in healthcare, education and other facilities. Sustainable living is one of the things that they are aiming to integrate into the society.
The earliest known evidence of human habitation in Qatar dates back to the 4th century BC from which artefacts such as rock inscriptions, rock carvings, flint spearheads and even pottery which were unearthed by Danish, British and the French expeditions between 1965 and 1976.
Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 for which it will build nine eco-friendly iconic stadiums, some of which will be able to host upto 80,000 people.
Doha (Ad Dawha) is the capital city of Qatar and means 'roundness', according to the Centre for Georgraphic Information Systems.
If you are new to Doha, finding online communities is the best way to get involved in activities of interest to you. Apart from Facebook pages, other popular forums include QatarLiving, ILoveQatar and Doha Tweetups.
If you are a movie buff, stay tuned in on the Doha Film Institute which screens a number of independent as well as popular films regularly. To watch the more commercial films, head over to one of the cinema theatres at the different malls around Qatar. For music, you have options such as live jazz, classical music and others performing in venues around Qatar every now and then. Jazz lovers can check out Jazz at Lincoln Center at St. Regis Doha or Doha Jazz at Oryx Rotana’s Jazz Club. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra performs regularly in Katara’s Opera House as well as open-air concerts at the Museum of Islamic Art Park on some weekends.
December 18 is the Qatar National Day. Some of its other annual national holidays are Qatar National Sport Day celebrated on the second Tuesday of February. As it is primarily an Islamic country, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha are the festive occasions.
The Pearl Qatar is a luxury development built on an artificial island shaped like a string of pearls. It was built on top of an old pearl diving site and is a great place for people to dine, socialise, shop for luxury apparel or products, or to enjoy a stroll along the marina. If you’re looking for banking options at The Pearl, Commercial bank has branches located at 14 La Croisette (contact 4449 5377/5378) and at Porto Arabia I (contact 4449 5470/5474).
World-renowned architect I M Pei designed the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, with its magnificent geometric architecture. It was opened in 2008 and is a blend of both Islamic and modern architectural styles.
Although Qatar is a desert, it has a diverse range of flora and fauna. Purple Island is an example of this. Located in 40km from Doha near the township of Al Khor, Purple Island is a fish-shaped island dotted with several low limestone cliffs throughout it and a mangrove forest that has a range of fish, shellfish as well as birds, including pink flamingoes which transit through Qatar during their seasonal migration. Every winter, traditional camel races are held in Al Shahaniya, which are not to be missed.
Arabic is the national language of Qatar but due to a large expatriate population that resides here, English, Urdu, French, Malayalam and Tagalog are also widely used.
Weekends in Qatar fall on Friday and Saturday. Most stores are usually closed on Friday mornings until the Jum’ah afternoon prayer.
Souq Waqif is one of Qatar’s most vibrant social hotspots. It is a traditional cultural bazaar, which houses a variety of shops selling traditional products as well as a range of restaurants serving a variety of cuisines such as Yemeni, Iranian, Iraqi, Thai, Malaysian, Indian etc. It is also a popular place for visitors to smoke shisha pipes, enjoy good food, or just relax after a long week. In addition to these, Souq Waqif also has an interesting veterinary surgery centre for falcons, which are the traditional birds of Qatar.
Due to the country’s expansive coastline, camping on beaches or at the desert are popular options for the adventurous. Some of the best beaches here include Fuwairit Beach, Dukhan Beach, Simaisma Beach as well as the most popular of them, Sealine Beach in Mesaieed where dune bashing is a popular sport. Dune bashing basically involves people riding up and down the large sand dunes in a SUV vehicle. Dune buggies are available for rent at Sealine Beach Resort in Mesaieed. If you are lucky, you might even catch female hawksbill turtles laying eggs on the shore of Fuwairit Beach during the spring.
When in Doha, dress modestly as a sign of respect to local customs and culture. Both women and men should refrain from wearing clothes that go above their knees and women should preferably cover their arms.
Public transportation is available all over Doha in the form of taxicabs and buses by the Mowasalat transportation company. Other private services such as the Doha Bus which is a hop-on-hop-off bus takes people sightseeing around some of the interesting tourist landmarks in Qatar. West Bay is Qatar’s commercial district and a significant portion of Qatar’s traffic goes around and through this area. The West Bay Bus service aims to reduce the traffic in this area by carrying people around different parts of West Bay. Qatar also has a public railway system in the pipeline.
Football/soccer is one of Qatar’s most popular sports. You can catch a game at most times during the year or visit the many stadiums, which are interesting to explore on their own as well.
The Corniche is one of the oldest landmarks in Qatar; it features a long walking path that is approximately 5km long. People walk, exercise, enjoy family picnics or simply sit by the sea for some fresh sea breeze and a magnificent view of the glittering West Bay skyline. The closest Commercial bank branches to the Corniche are at City Center Mall (contact 4449 8050/8051), West Bay branch at Commercial bank Plaza (contact 4449 5383/5384/5385/5390).
Summer in Doha is usually quite harsh with temperatures flaring upto 50C. Most people like staying indoors but evenings are slightly cooler. With sunscreen, a hat on and by keeping yourself constantly hydrated when outdoors, you should be fine. Winters are much cooler and although the nights can get a little chilly, it is the perfect season to sit outdoors, enjoy camping and a BBQ at the beach or at the desert, or sit outdoors at the city’s many parks and enjoy a picnic or peoplewatching.
Karak tea is one of the most popular beverages among local and expatriate residents alike in Qatar. A number of eateries serve this delicious, milky tea, which is infused with cardamom. The best spots for Karak are Tea Time and Chapati & Karak (in Katara Cultural Village). If you’re feeling peckish, a number of small Lebanese outlets serving shawarma (for the meat-eaters) or falafel (for the vegetarians or vegans). At these small eateries it is not unusual to sit in your car and be served.
Qatar hosts the MotoGP every year at the Losail International Circuit located to the north of Qatar. So if you have an interest in bike racing, this is a great event to attend.