The eyes of the world were firmly on Qatar in late 2022 as it hosted the FIFA World Cup. The tournament brought with it an influx of foreign tourists to this tiny Middle East country. Tourism is a developing industry in Qatar, but is certainly growing. Visitors can take advantage of recent cultural openings around the country – including the fascinating structures that house of the National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art – along with a host of new hotels. The presence of several significant historical sites – from the bustling souq markets to centuries-old forts – and natural beauty, including desert dunes and strikingly blue seas makes Qatar a surprisingly diverse tourist destination. We’ve rounded up some of the best things to do so you can make the most of your trip.
Walk along the Corniche:
The Corniche is a roughly four-mile long promenade that extends along Doha Bay. Often the venue for national celebrations, it is home to dozens of shops, restaurants and attractions. Visitors will find excellent views of the city’s skyline during their strolls, while the Al Dafna park is a great place to sit by the water as you bask in the sun. For a traditional Doha experience, take a ride on the water in a dhow boat.
Visit the Katara Cultural Centre:
A popular cultural and commercial complex in the capital, Katara is home to a maritime museum and several important local buildings. It also hosts several cultural institutions, including the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Doha Film Institute. Visitors can enjoy the centre’s extensive gardens, an open-air cinema, the upscale 21 High Street shopping centre and even a beach. Notable landmarks include the Katara Mosque (a real work of art adorned in blue and gold tiles), the Golden Mosque and the Katara Amphitheatre (which provides sweeping views over the sea and the village itself).
Take in the architecture:
The architecture throughout Qatar is extremely varied, from Al Rayyan’s Education City Mosque to World Cup stadiums. Some of the museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art, the Qatar National Museum and the National Library, are magnificent structures that are recent additions to the country’s cultural scene. Others, such as Education City, Doha Tower, Al Bayt Stadium and the East-West/West-East structure (an architectural artwork in the Brouq Nature Reserve), were built for a range of purposes (ranging from education and the World Cup to simple artistic expression) and express different styles and influences. In terms of religious sites, as well as the mosques at Katara, the Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque is an impressive structure that is also the largest of its kind in the country.
Stroll through the Souqs:
As in many Arabian countries, souqs form an important part of Qatari culture. Stretching back for hundreds of years, these markets have been used by Bedouin people as trading places for items such as traditional clothing, crafts, artworks and spices. Souq Waqif in Doha is the most famous in Qatar, a network of alleys that are lined with stalls selling anything from dates and seasonal delicacies to perfumes, jewelry and souvenirs. Traditional shows and music are common there, creating a vibrant ambiance. Across the street, you’ll find the Gold Souq (mainly selling jewelry), while another Souq Waqif (built in 2014) provides 10 different market zones on the coast, in the nearby town of Al Wakra.
See the museums and galleries:
The country is home to several impressive museums and galleries that showcase an eclectic range of art, objects and artefacts. For a historical tour, visit the National Museum of Qatar to explore the country’s culture and heritage. For art, your first stop should be the Museum of Islamic Art (which houses a comprehensive collection of Islamic art, artefacts and craftsmanship) before visiting Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, which exhibits contemporary pieces from the international Arab diaspora. Temporary exhibitions across various subjects can be found at the Al Riwaq Gallery, the Fire Station Garage and the Qatar Museums Gallery at Katara.
Discover the country’s history:
Qatar has a long history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to 6,000BC. Its more recent history dates back to around 1776, when all the tribes gathered under the Al Thani family. There is a Bronze Age cemetery at Um Al Maa, and some of the carvings on display at Al Jassassiyeh supposedly date back to Neolithic times. There are several 19th- and 20th-century forts around the country, the most famous of which are Al Wajbah and Al Zubarah (Zubarah is also the location of Qatar’s only Unesco world heritage site, dating back to the 18th century). The Old Palace – once the home of the emir – has been restored and sits at the heart of the National Museum, while the Al Rekayat Fort (near the northwest coast of the country) is a well-preserved site where visitors can learn about 19th-century village life.
Explore Doha’s districts:
The Qatari capital is composed of several districts. For a slice of glamour, head to the Pearl. Doha’s rival to Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah is an artificial island of luxurious residences and upmarket shops and restaurants, a highlight of which is the Qanat Quartier and its fusion of Arab-Venetian buildings. The Mina district in the Old Port is a picturesque and similarly colourful area, lined with pastel buildings, plus dozens of wall lights and street lamps. Downtown Doha, also known as Msheireb, is an area of more contemporary architecture with Arab-style mansions, a plethora of shops and restaurants, and the impressive open-air covered square of Barahat Msheireb.
See the Inland Sea:
The country’s “Inland Sea” is one of few places in the world where the desert meets the waters, and it has become one of Qatar’s most popular tourist sites. Roughly an hour south of Doha, it is known as the Khor Al Adaid by locals, and is a place where the waters of the Arabian Gulf meet large dunes, sandflats and rocky outcrops. This diverse landscape – a Unesco Natural Reserve – is a ideal place for swimming and kayaking in the wild, with several guided tour options available; these often include other activities, too, such as dune bashing and walking tours of the desert.
Traverse the desert:
The deserts around Qatar continue to be an important part of Qatari life; this is evident in the winter camping season (Al Enna), when locals venture out to stay on the sands. For tourists, desert safaris, camel rides, dune bashing, quad bike tours and sandboarding are all popular, and you can even paraglide and kite surf. Many of these activities take place in the Khor Al Adaid reserve, meaning you’re never too far from somewhere to swim. For an even more immersive experience, combine some of these activities with an overnight camping trip on the dunes; as well as a pleasant sleep and a traditional meal, you may be lucky enough to see flamingos, turtles, dugong and Arabian oryx.
Take in some sport:
Visitors can partake in water sports, cycle along a 20-mile bike lane in Doha (at the Olympic Cycling Track, one of the longest continuous paths in the world), play a round of golf surrounded by city views at Doha Golf Club, or try their hand at climbing (with or without ropes) at Aspire Park. If you prefer watching rather than participating, Qatar plays host to renowned events such as the Moto GP and is now the location of a race in the Formula One calendar every season.
At the heart of promoting Qatar’s tourism and offering unparalleled experiences, BM Events has been instrumental. Their support has not only accentuated the charm of these attractions but has ensured that visitors receive the best experiences.