The tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar is a land of contrasts — massive desert sand dunes and an ultramodern capital with towering skyscrapers. It’s a place where visitors can enjoy all the luxuries of a 21st-century vacation while becoming immersed in an ancient culture.
Here are ten ways that you can enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience on a trip to Qatar.
In Doha, the capital, go for a walk along the Corniche, a waterfront promenade that stretches about four miles. It’s a popular spot with residents and visitors alike. You’ll find people out jogging, skating or enjoying an evening stroll.
Take in the city’s stunning skyline from the waters of Doha Bay aboard a dhow, a handmade wooden boat. Used for fishing and pearl diving, the boats are an important part of Qatar’s heritage. At night, they’re decorated with colorful neon lights.
Just off the Corniche, visit the Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, it appears to float on water. The museum has a vast collection drawn from three continents and stretching over 14 centuries, including paintings, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, textiles and glass.
Explore Doha’s Souq Waqif with its maze of shops filled with spices, sweets, clothing, art and traditional crafts. The market dates back at least a century and was renovated in 2006 to preserve its traditional architecture. It’s a great place to find a special souvenir to bring home.
For a contemporary and luxurious contrast, visit The Pearl, a manmade island in Doha known as the Arabian Riviera for its yacht-lined marinas, internationally renowned hotels and upscale shopping. The waterfront promenade is lined with cafes and restaurants, from ice cream shops to five-star establishments.
There’s much to see beyond the capital, too.
Travel about 45 minutes from Doha to go “dune bashing” in the desert. An experienced driver will take you on an exhilarating ride in a four-by-four vehicle over golden sand dunes. Some tours also offer an overnight stay in the desert.
Visit the restored Al Zubarah Fort on Qatar’s northwest coast. The surrounding archaeological site contains the remains of a walled town that was once one of the Persian Gulf’s most important centers of trading and pearl diving.
Awe over one of Qatar’s most spectacular natural wonders located about 40 miles from Doha. The “Inland Sea” or Khor Al Adaid is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches into the heart of the desert. It can only be reached across the rolling sand dunes.
Explore by kayak the lush Al Thakira mangroves, which provide a stark contrast to the surrounding desert landscape. The large expanse of natural greenery attracts a variety of bird life, including flamingos and herons.
Travel to the western edge of the country to see the limestone rock formations of Ras Abrouq. A climb will give you a view of the Qatar Peninsula. Nearby is Richard Serra’s massive East-West/West-East sculpture.