Qatar Holiday Planning Guide
Sitting on a peninsula that juts out into the Persian Gulf, the tiny country of Qatar covers a small amount of territory but contains big reserves of natural gas and oil, boosting the per capita income to levels greater than in many highly industrialized Western nations. Ideal for travelers interested in taking a trip back in time, a vacation to Qatar involves modern cities boasting outstanding museums, a lively arts scene, and an eclectic culinary heritage. In a country that embraces the future without forgetting its past, it’s still possible to spend time learning about the centuries-old art of falconry or ride off into the sunset on the back of a camel.
Places to Visit in Qatar
Cities in QatarMesaieed
: The industrial center of the country, Mesaieed has developed rapidly because of its petroleum reserves. Head for the southeast part of the city where the desert meets the sea, there you’ll find numerous resorts and interesting sights, including the so-called “singing sand” that produces sound when in contact with wind or when you walk on it.Al Wakrah
: Once a prime pearling location, Al Wakrah’s combination of traditional and modern architecture, along with the local souks and the palm-lined beach, make this city a must-see on your Qatar vacation.Doha
: Boasting shallow sea right next to the white, warm beaches (and all in the vicinity of traditional mosques), Doha attracts both locals and foreigners who come to browse the quaint, beachside bazaars.Al Khor
: With a history in pearl production, Al Khor today represents a getaway and a site to get acquainted with the local life characterized by mangroves, a variety of bird species, small open-air markets, and places where dhow ships are made, as well as the old watchtowers that ensure breathtaking views of the panorama.Madinat Ash Shamal
: Boasting varied natural sites, Madinat Ash Shamal offers a way to meet the local biodiversity and culture through different eco tours and visits to archaeological sites and ancient villages.
Things to Do in Qatar
Popular Qatar Tourist AttractionsSouq Waqif
: Boasting a variety of restaurants and goods for sale, ranging from spices to jewelry and clothes, Souq Waqif is an unmistakable favorite of both tourists and locals.Museum of Islamic Art
: Most people who visit Doha flock to see the intricate architectural design of the museum and its exhibits, which include millennium-old pieces of art.The Corniche
: Experience views of scenic parks, the harbor, and examples of the local architecture along The Corniche, a 7 km (4.3 mi) pathway facing the water.City Centre Mall
: This multi-floor, contemporary building offers a special shopping experience with various local and international products for sale, plus several restaurants and a cinema on site.Villaggio
: Luxury comes alive at Villaggio, a grand shopping mall that recreates Venice, Italy, indoors, including canals, painted ceilings, and numerous luxury high-fashion stores; many people consider it one of the main Qatar places to visit.The Pearl-Qatar
: Indulge in the luxury of The Pearl-Qatar, a group of artificial islands connected by a boardwalk that offers scenic strolls, as well as numerous upscale stores and restaurants with international cuisine.Aspire Park
: Stretching across 88 ha (217.5 ac), Aspire Park boasts lush greenery, a lake, sports tracks, children’s play area, and several coffee shops that make it ideal for a relaxed pastime.Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
: Discover the cultural heritage and the history of the country at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, situated in an old fort and displaying a wide range of artifacts in 15 different halls.State Grand Mosque
: Enrich your Qatar itinerary with a visit to State Grand Mosque, the country’s largest mosque which boasts mesmerizing architectural design, numerous domes, and subtle details.Aqua Park Qatar
: One of the favorite Qatar tourist attractions, Aqua Park Qatar offers a large variety of pools, slides, and different amenities for both the youngest and adults.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Qatar
Cuisine of Qatar
A combination of several different influences, the cuisine of Qatar is predominantly Arab with some elements of Indian and Iranian cuisines. When on your Qatar holiday, you’ll see that the courses consist of vegetables, seafood, meat, and rice. In addition to this, several sorts of fruit take up an important place in everyday meals.
You’ll probably want to try the most famous dishes, “kabsa” and “machbous,” prepared with meat, vegetables, rice, and traditional spices to taste. The people of Qatar enjoy hummus as well, a dip that’s recently gained popularity throughout the world that’s made from sesame seeds.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, you might want to try some of the traditional desserts. Desserts are usually in the form of pudding, such as pistachio, rice, and rose water, often with some spices, namely saffron. If you want to play it safe and go with what you’ve eaten before, most of the restaurants offer desserts like cheesecake and chocolate-based sweets.
An important part of the Qatari cuisine and culture is the well-known Arabic coffee, which is often drunk during family or friend gatherings. Here coffee is served with fruity dates, and some people enjoy putting cardamom in their cups. Another favorite drink is karak tea with milk and ginger.
Shopping in Qatar
One of the ways to spoil yourself on your Qatar vacation is by indulging in some retail therapy. As one of the richest countries in the world, it has a vast offering, ranging from street vendors to enormous luxury shopping centers.
You can opt for one of the numerous open-air markets that sell handmade jewelry and souvenirs, works of local artisans, renowned textiles, seafood, and all kinds of fruits--both fresh and dried. Shopping in these venues gets you acquainted with the local culture.
You’ll find many of the huge shopping malls in Doha where stores tout the latest world fashions and accessories, embraced by top-quality brands.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Qatar
Interesting Facts About Qatar
● Qatar is the number one country in the world in terms of income per capita.
● It’s the world’s largest natural gas exporter.
● The work days are Sunday-Thursday, so weekends span Friday and Saturday.
● A full tank of gas in your car is cheaper than two coffees in Qatar.
Things You Should NOT Do in Qatar
Considering that Qatar is, for the most part, an Islamic country, make sure to respect people’s traditions and behavior. You should abstain from getting involved in religious discussions. Although it’s not officially forbidden, neither men nor women should wear clothes shorter than knee length.
Men should not approach women if there’s a woman nearby who can do it instead. It’s usually considered inappropriate and sometimes even insulting.
If you’re invited to a local’s house, don’t eat with your left hand and try to always face the host. Also, shaking hands isn’t common here, so unless you’re offered a hand on your Qatar trip, don’t initiate a handshake. Finally, keep your drinking to a minimum, since too much alcohol can lead to disrespectful behavior, which is punishable in some cases in the country.
Holidays & Festivals in Qatar
Because most people in Qatar are Muslim, the national holidays are Muslim as well. They are celebrated with families, usually attending a group prayer in one of the mosques. Some of the most famous are Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, in August and September, followed by feasts and performances.
Every year in December, Qatar organizes the Art Festival, where galleries from the country and the region exhibit their best and most famous works. A similar event occurs in Doha every March, for the Cultural Festival, where you can attend different music shows and performances with traditional clothing and dances.
Doha also hosts the famous Tribeca Film Festival, one of the largest Middle Eastern movie-related events, that began in 2009 and happens every October. It’s an international festival that gathers notable worldwide directors and actors for five days in the capital.
Useful Qatar Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Qatar
Even though Qatar welcomes tourists from all over the world, the official and most commonly spoken language is Arabic. You can try communicating with English, French, or some other language, but to really gain information, the best thing you can do is try and learn some of the most common Arabic words and expressions. The people you encounter will surely appreciate the effort you put in trying to comprehend a foreign language. You should be fine with “marhaba/salam” (hello), “shukran” (thank you), “ma-a salama” (good bye), and “kam thee?” (how much does this cost?).
Climate of Qatar
Since it’s not a large country, Qatar has a similar climate in all parts, with the coastal areas a bit cooler than the rest. The climate is subtropical and dry, with almost no precipitation, and the highest temperatures reaching a scorching 50 C (122 F) from July to August. The temperatures get lower after this period, and are most pleasant in spring and autumn. In December, January, and February, when it’s winter, the average temperature is around 23 C (73 F).
Despite the excessive heat, you should nevertheless bring light jackets, sweaters, or shawls on your Qatar vacation, since the nights can get chilly.
Transportation in Qatar
Due to the very high temperatures that last most of the year, walking--with the exception of evenings--is not advised on a Qatar trip. There’s a well-functioning Doha-based public bus network that operates both in the capital and throughout the country. Most people use taxis to get from their resort to another place, and it’s quite cheap, thanks to the country’s status in the oil industry. There’s also an option to take a taxi limousine, which is a bit more expensive, but not ridiculously so.
Tipping in Qatar
As far as dining in a restaurant on a Qatar holiday, tips are usually included in the bill, but it’s unlikely that your waiter will get this money, so you can tip them separately if you’d like to. The standards for tipping in a hotel are very similar to the rest of the world. This goes for taxi drivers and tour guides, who usually expect a small tip, as well.
If you’re particularly pleased with a service of some other kind, such as a hairdresser, tipping a small amount is acceptable, unless you are told differently.