Interesting Facts about Qatar
Located in the Middle East, Qatar shares its borders with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the west and the Persian Gulf to the east. The Global Peace Index ranks features Qatar as one of 20 most peaceful countries in the world.
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 artifacts such as rock inscriptions, rock carvings, flint spearheads and even pottery which were unearthed by the Danish, British and the French expeditions between 1965 and 1976.
- Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 for which it will build 12 eco-friendly iconic stadiums, some of which will be able to host upto 80,000 people.
- Doha is the capital city of Qatar and is derived from the Arabic word ‘Ad-Dawha’, which translates into ‘the big tree’.
- If you are new to Doha, go online and find the vast number of online resources in Qatar to help you find new activities to get involved different things here or even to meet new people. Some of these popular resources include qatar-tourism.com
- If you are a movie buff, the Doha Film Institute 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 plays a lot of concerts every Saturday even in Katara’s Opera House as well as open-air concerts at the Museum of Islamic Art Park on some weekends.
- The nation celebrates December 18 every year as Qatar National Day to commemorate Qatar’s independence from Britain. 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 widely celebrated every year too. All of these festivals and events are celebrated throughout the country in a very grand manner.
- The Pearl is a luxury development built on an artificial island shaped like a string of pearls on the edge of Doha. It was built on top of an old pearl diving site and currently is a great place for people to dine, socialize, 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 its building is a blend of both Islamic and modern architectural styles.
- Although Qatar is originally 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 Fridays and Saturdays. Most stores are usually closed on Friday mornings until the Jumu’ah afternoon prayer. Most stores and other places begin to open for business around 1.30pm.
- 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).
- The summer in Doha is usually quite harsh with temperatures flaring upto 50 degrees Celsius. 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. However, 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 and ginger in some places. Some popular places that serve karak and have even served variations of this 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) are easy grab-and-go options. You could simply park outside many and just wait for someone to come get your order.
- Qatar hosts the MotoGP every year, the motorcycling Grand Prix of Doha, 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.
10 Outdoor activities to enjoy in Qatar
- Outdoor fitness
While living and working in Qatar you can participate in a number of fitness activities outdoors through clubs like Bootcamp Qatar.
- As the name suggests, Bootcamp offers training exercises to groups of people in locations such as the Corniche, Museum of Islamic Art Park, Dahl Al Hammam and Education City. There are special sessions for ladies and a new kettlebells class too twice a week.
- Contact: 7756 7527 or 3000 8974, [email protected], Website, Facebook
- The Corniche also has a number of fitness equipment installed which visitors can use for free.
- Places like Aspire Zone have special walking tracks where people can walk, run or ride their bicycles.
- Go on a run with members of the Doha Bay Running Club every Friday morning at 05:30. Website
Among the places to visit in Qatar are a number of well-maintained parks, which make for excellent picnic spots, places where adults and kids can walk, run or play. There is usually at least one in any major neighborhood, however there are a few major parks that are easily accessible and open to all.Something to keep in mind is, that some parks do have ‘family days,’ during which only people who come in as families, can gain access.
- Museum of Islamic Art Park : A walk around the crescent-shaped walkway with a view of the sea on the side makes visiting this park worth the effort. Swings, monkey bars and a trampoline offer kids the opportunity to release all their restless energy, while parents and other adults can either enjoy snacks from the park’s café or sit in front of the sea and watch the Doha skyline light up as the sun goes down. (Hours: 10:30 to 23:00)
- Aspire Park : Aspire Park offers more than just green grass and place to relax. An artificial duck pond,a long walking track and two restaurant cafés are its highlights. (Hours: 8:00 to 22:00)
- Sheraton Park : This park is great place to take your kids to. While they play on the swings and make their way up and down slides in the sandpit, you can relax on the grass nearby. (Hours: 10:30 to 23:00)
- Dahl Al Hammam Park : Located in Markhiya, this park is a spread of lush green walking paths and play areas for kids, making it a complete relaxing experience for families. (Hours: 07:30 to 24:00)
- Al Rumaila Park : This park runs parallel to the Corniche and apart from being a great place for families and fitness enthusiasts, it also houses small shops selling traditional cultural artifacts and one of Qatar’s best Thai restaurants, Thai Smile. (Hours: 10:30 to 23:00)
If you are interested in sailing, a number of local operators offer sailing lessons while you live and work in Qatar. You could also rent sailboats if you choose.
- Regatta Sailing Academy at the InterContinental Hotel Doha offers sailing courses for youth and adults. They also offer water activities for kids’ birthday parties. Apart from courses, the academy also organizes races for adults, kids and ladies. If you would like to rent a boat, Regatta rents some out for a fee of between QR100 and QR200 per hour.
- Contact: [email protected], Website, or call 4442 4577 for more information.
- Doha Sailing Club offers sailing lessons to beginners every Saturday by trained club members. The club also provides boats and equipment free of charge or additions to the annual fee.
- Contact: [email protected], Website, or call 4443 9840 for more information.
Entalek organises a number of outdoor activities and environmental education programmes in Qatar. Some of these popular ones include kayaking through the mangrove plantations in Al Thakhira marina near Al Khor. In the past, their offerings have included full moon paddles through the mangroves at Al Thakhira, an exploratory dhow ride by the Doha harbor to learn about the fishing and pearling cultures of Qatar as well as snorkelling in Fuwairit. These are just a few of the activities that Entalek organises and most of them are reasonably priced between QR150 and QR200.
- Desert trips and camping
A top place to visit while you live in Qatar is naturally the desert. The desert offers a challenging terrain for those seeking adventure in Qatar. There are a number of desert-centric activities that you can engage in. Some of them include renting a dune buggy on the beach near Sealine Beach Resort as well as dune bashing, which remains a popular sport with both Qataris and expatriates. A Toyota Land Cruiser or an SUV is commonly used for this sport.
Local tour operators such as Qatar International Adventures offers a number of tours, the desert safari is a popular offering.
If you own a SUV, you could drive there with some friends too.
The Inland Sea is a popular desert destination in the country.
Since Qatar is surrounded by water on all sides, it has a number of beautiful beaches on its coastline offering a lovely place to visit. Some of these include:
- Fuwairit Beach – 80 kms north of Doha
- Al Ghariya Beach – 80 km north of Doha
- Zekreet Beach –Located close to Dukhan on the west coast of Qatar
- Dukhan Beach- 60 kilometers west of Doha
- Mesaieed Beach (near Sealine Beach Resort) – 40 km south of Doha
- La Plage W. Drive (Beach near the Diplomatic Club)
- Boat/Dhow rides or cruises
Those who live and work in Qatar are familiar with The dhow. It is a traditional Qatari fishing boat, which is anchored in many spots along the Corniche or the Doha harbour. Riding on a dhow in the Corniche is a popular activity. The dhow operators offer rides for about QR15 or QR20, but this is usually negotiable. Group discounts may be available too.
Also worth the experience is a ride on the BBQ Donuts at The Diplomatic Club, a ride which takes you around the West Bay. Breakfast, lunch or dinner is provided depending on the time of the day you ride in it. Call 4484 7450 or [email protected] The Diplomatic Club formore information.
- Rock climbing
For those who are serious rock climbers or would like to experience the adrenaline rush that comes from this adventurous sport, there are a number of options.
- Zekreet in western Qatar near Dukhan has a number of large rock formations, with the highest of them being around 15 metres.
- Musfer Sinkhole (a karst cave in Umm Al Shabrum, central Qatar) is a popular location for those interested in bouldering
- Galaxy Sports at Ezdan Mall in Gharaffa has a newly opened climbing wall
- Or else if you would like to try rock climbing as a social sport, you could join the members of Doha Climbers, many of whom are advanced climbers. But beginners are welcome to join them too. (Facebook)
Flora Kitesurfing School which is run by Flora, a certified professional kitesurfer, offers kitesurfing lessons to adults and teenagers at beginner and advanced levels. Flora offers both week and weekend courses. Fees for these courses are between QR550 and QR2800. One kite is usually suitable for two persons. Most of these lessons are usually held at Simaisma Beach, Wakra Kite Beach, Fuwairit or Al Mafjar.
Qatar as a peninsular landmass is surrounded by the Arabian Sea on three sides, which makes diving and water sports a natural choice for people who are living in Qatar. There are a number of centres around Qatar, which offer lessons in scuba diving whether it’s for kids as young as eight years old or adults at the beginner, intermediate or advanced levels.
Some of them are:
- Poseidon Diving Centre: Poseidon offers diving lessons to help you improve your skills or even for complete beginners. They offer recreational courses as well as professional and educational courses for those with more serious diving goals. Call 4442 8402 for more information. Website, Facebook
- Qatar Scuba Centre: This centre offers mainly PADI courses using PADI diver level materials for each course and programme. Call 6666 2277 for more information or visit the Website.
- Qatar Divers: Qatar Divers too offers courses for beginners, advanced and professional levels. It also offers some specialty courses. Call 4431 3331 for more information. Website, Facebook