One of the seven Arab States of the Persian Gulf, Qatar is a tiny Peninsula neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Middle East. While it is the second smallest in size after Bahrain, it is by no means tiny in terms of economy and influence.
A desert flatland by the waters of the Persian Gulf Sea, the Capital City Doha, has increasingly become popular as a tourist destination in recent years due to:
- The National carrier, Qatar Airways, that has an extensively wide route network enabling easier access during routine stopovers enroute to 100s of destinations across all continents;
- Their recent successful hosting of FIFA World Cup 2022 which exposed the little country to a hugely diverse community of football and travel enthusiasts from all over the globe
- Their national commitment to developing infrastructure showcasing their wealth in Cultural Heritage, Architectural innovation, Entertainment, Shopping, Festivals and selective access to unbelievable Luxury for those who can afford it.
- Long flight layovers in Doha by design or default, coupled with its tiny size, as well as highly developed road infrastructure make it easy to arrange tours within 24 hours and see quite a lot within a short period, depending on your interests.
- It’s accommodation of people from all walks of life, even though it is predominantly muslim; so long as one respects the cultural norms in dress and behaviour
My general impressions when I spent one day in Doha were:
- Atmosphere – Calm, orderly, reserved, organised, safe and very, very, rich country
- Weather – very hot and humid, current windy season is cooling but very dusty
- Population – intriguing and diverse; nationals are fully represented at immigration, in restaurants, driving or in shopping malls, etc. whereas immigrants form the larger proportion of the visible community e.g. Met Asians at hotel, tour operators, taxis, hospitality, markets and East Africans running taxis, manning security at cultural sites, airports, managing hotels, etc.
- Expenditure – City is generally pricey from transportation to food, entertainment, etc.
- Lifestyle – Wealthy judging by the infrastructure, variety of super high range sports cars on the road, as well as middle to lower Range Toyota types (no boneshakers in sight!)
- Culture – rich in food, art, dress and music
If you are fortunate to have just one day in Doha, there are TWO Major to-dos I recommend to experience the beauty of the city as well as a bit of the desert (if you have time):
1. City tour – It’s larger than one would expect, especially in terms of what there is to see, including
- Souq Waqif Market
- Museum of Islamic art
- National Museum of Qatar
- Katara Cultural Village at the Corniche
- Fanar – Qatar Islamic Cultural Center
- Villaggio Mall – A taste of Venice in Doha
- Pearl Island reclaimed into a luxurious residence
2. Desert Safari
Best done in the afternoon by road (less hot!) in a luxury 4-wheel-SUV operated by experienced drivers, it a thrilling 2-5 hour excursion around the desert in the south of Qatar.
They drive you over the high dunes about 45km outside the city of Doha, deep in the desert as well as on sandy beach alongside the inland sea
It’s so enthralling as a different tour experience that it’s worth it to create the time.
Activities include camel rides, roller-coasting up and down the dunes or ‘dune-bashing’, tasting sweetened tea prepared locally, sandboarding, sunset-gawking and even camping if so inclined!
There’s no shortage of options and you can do a lot with a short time.
However, be forewarned: if you go during the summer months of June-September, be prepared to roast under the searing temperatures which can climb to 40+ degrees centigrade; it is after all a desert! Best time to visit? November to February, when the weather is mild and sunny, forming picturesque contrast between the clear skies and the desert, a photographer’s paradise.