My Travel Guide to the Arab World
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Map of Qatar

Qatar

Qatar in Arabic
Flag of Qatar

Time zone: GMT +3
Capital: Doha
Area: 11,437 square kilometers
Population: approx. 1,400,000
Currency: Qatari Riyal (QAR)
Click for Doha, Qatar Forecast

Qatar - "The Heart of the Arabian Gulf" - is on a peninsula on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The last decade has seen a huge expansion of the Qatari economy. The country is currently one of the world's richest countries, and is set to become a hub for regional and international business and trade.

Qatar is also marketing itself as a sports and tourism destination. How about getting into a 4x4 vehicle and go dune bashing in the desert, or why not just relax on one of the country’s many fine beaches?


Doha

Qatar’s capital city is on the east coast of the peninsula. Doha displays a mixture of modern architecture and traditional Arab buildings. The city is the cultural and commercial heart of the country, and half of the country's population lives here.


Souk Waqif

Like in so many other cities of the Arabian Gulf, a visit to the souk is a must. The old souk in Doha, called Souk Waqif, has gone through a huge restoration scheme, retaining the old style of its architecture. This is where you can experience a genuine atmosphere and get a feel for the traditions of Arabia.

Innumerous stalls selling all sorts of paraphernalia, guarantee an unforgettable shopping experience. Don't miss the falcon shops, where you can learn about Arabian falconry, and perhaps get a chance to handle a real falcon.

A huge open-air café with hubbly-bubbly-smoking customers is one of the main attractions in the souk. There are a number of ethnic restaurants in the souk, such as Lebanese, Yemeni and Malaysian.


The Corniche

The Corniche in Doha.
The Doha Corniche against the backdrop of the West Bay business district.

The Doha Corniche is indeed one of the most beautiful in the Middle East. A pleasant recreation area, it provides residents and visitors with opportunities for jogging, walking or just relaxing. The Corniche is about seven kilometres long, with paved walkways, and splendid views of the Arabian Gulf. From the Corniche, you can watch the graceful wooden dhow boats, some still employed in fishing local waters.

Across from the Corniche is West Bay - Doha's new business district. Built on land reclaimed from the sea, West Bay consists almost entirely of futuristic skyscrapers, giving the area a Manhattan-style appearance. Many of Doha's luxury hotels are in this area. West Bay is also home to many foreign embassies.

The most prominent building on the Corniche is the Emiri Palace, the official residence of Qatar's ruler.

Prominent mosques near the Corniche include The Grand Mosque and The Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Mosque.


Qatar National Museum

Qatar Islamic Cultural Center.
The spiral minaret of the Qatar Islamic Cultural Center is a spectacular Doha landmark.

This museum on the Doha Corniche was originally built in 1912, as a palace for the governors of Qatar. The building was restored and refurbished as a national museum and reopened in 1975. The museum comprises five sections; Old Governor’s Palace, the State Museum, the Lagoon, the Aquarium and the Botanic Garden.

The museum is currently closed for renovation.


Qatar Museum of Islamic Arts

Situated on the Corniche, this museum will showcase Islamic objects and artefacts and also function as an educational institution. The museum has been designed by I. M. Pei, who also designed the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. The museum is due to open in March 2008.


Doha Zoo

Housing around 150 species of animals from all over the world, Doha Zoo is also an opportunity to watch species of the local desert fauna. The zoo is in an attractive landscaped setting, and has a cafeteria and a children's play ground. Note that Tuesday afternoons are reserved for ladies and children only.


Al Zubarah

About a 100 km west of Doha lies the town of Al Zubara, an important archeological site famous for its old fort. This fort-turned-museum was constructed in 1938, and was erected on the ruins of a neighbouring fort. The fort itself is square-shaped with circular towers in three of its corners and a rectangular tower in the fourth. With high, thick walls, this fort also served as a coast guard station and, until the mid-1980s, was used by the military.


Marroub Fort

Marroub Fort is on the west coast of Qatar and bears the marks of Abassid architectural style.


Al Thughb Fort

Located in the northwestern part of the country, approximately 110 kilometres from Doha, Al Thughb Fort is rectangular with four towers – a common design for desert forts erected between the 17th and 19th centuries.


Al Rakiyat Fort

Restored in 1988, Al Rakiyat Fort was constructed some time during the 17th and 19th centuries. Made of mud and stone, this fort, as with many others in Qatar, is shaped as a rectangle with four corner towers.


Barzan Tower

This tower was built during the late 19th century and its ‘T’-shape is considered a unique architectural style in the Gulf region. It is a rectangular construction with three levels and an external staircase.


Umm Salal Mohammed Fort

Located about 20 kilometres north of Doha and built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this fort is distinguishable by its high thick walls and impressive façade. Inside the fort, you will find several examples of architectural and decorative elements.


Al Wajbah Fort

With its high towers and thick walls, Al Wajbah Fort was the site of a famous battle and is considered the oldest fort in the country. In 1893 AD, the people of Qatar, under the leadership of Sheikh Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani, defeated the Ottoman forces.


Al Jassasiya

A number of rocky hills overlooking the northeastern coast of Qatar. They are famous for their numerous stone carvings and engravings, some of which date back to prehistoric times.

Known for its fine beaches, Al Jassasiya and its neighbour, Fuwairet, are popular for weekend excursions.


The Oryx Farm and Equestrian Club

The Arabian Oryx
The Arabian Oryx is the national animal of Qatar.
The national animal of Qatar, the Oryx, can be seen in its natural surroundings at the Oryx Farm located in Shahaniya.

The purebred Arab show- and racehorses at Al Shaqab Stud Farm provide a great opportunity to enjoy these horses close-up. Other facilities include the Qatar Race and Equestrian Club, where visitors are welcome to view its stables, and the Rayyan Racing and Equestrian Club, where races and show-jumping events are held. Local tour operators can arrange visits to these sites.


The visitor to Qatar can also enjoy:

  1. Golfing at the splendid 18-hole Doha Golf Club
  2. Camel racing (watching only...)
  3. Camel safaris
  4. Desert dune-bashing trips in 4x4 vehicles
  5. Dhow trips and fishing trips
  6. Splendid beaches
  7. Scuba diving
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