I’m a 12 months into my second stretch of calling Doha residence. So I’ve realized a factor or two about residing within the desert state of Qatar.
After I first lived right here 20 years in the past, no one had even heard of this outstanding little nation. In the present day, cruise ships hug the shoreline, and guests flock right here from across the globe. But some vacationers arrive unprepared.
Figuring out some background data earlier than your go to will aid you benefit from your journey to this nation on the Arabian Peninsula. From dealing with the warmth and taking the super-modern metro to seeing superb artwork and attending to know the Qataris, listed below are my prime ideas that can aid you get essentially the most out of your go to to Qatar.
Timing your go to to Qatar is essential
Qatar’s “season” runs from October to Might. These months are the best time to visit, when most occasions and exhibitions happen and when the temperatures are nice sufficient to stroll round exterior.
Qatar is a desert nation, and it will get sizzling. Like, actually sizzling. Summer season temperatures simply attain 50ºC (122ºF) – within the shade. When you can count on all the things out of your rental automobile to the department stores and even some bus stops to be air conditioned, you may nonetheless get uncomfortable bouncing between them.
Resolve to journey – or not – throughout Ramadan
The ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, the holy month of Ramadan is when Muslims quick between dawn and sundown. Throughout Ramadan, it’s frowned upon to eat, drink, smoke and even chew gum in public throughout daylight. Whereas Qataris are tolerant of non-Muslim guests, virtually all eating places are closed through the day (resorts supply the few exceptions). Visiting Qatar throughout Ramadan means your journey plans need to be extra versatile, however you’ll get the prospect to expertise festivities such because the each day sundown cannon being set off, the beautiful lantern decorations round city and the nightly iftar, the breaking of the quick after sundown that’s a joyous occasion in personal properties and eating places.
Take care to decorate appropriately
Qatar is a Muslim nation, and whereas Qataris are tolerant – particularly of holiday makers – it’s an indication of respect to decorate modestly. It’s not an issue to put on a bikini at resort seashores and swimming pools, nevertheless it’s respectful for women and men to cowl their shoulders and put on garments that attain to the knee when strolling round elsewhere, particularly in areas the place you’ll encounter many locals, akin to in Souq Waqif.
Hop on the Doha Metro
Whereas a lot of Doha’s focus on Souq Waqif and Msheireb is walkable within the cooler months, the best and most snug way to get around is on the Doha Metro. This contemporary, clear and expansive system takes you to all of the busy hubs inside Doha and its environment, together with the airport and the cities of Al Wakrah and Lusail.
Perceive the native etiquette
From avoiding consuming together with your left hand to espresso taken with cardamom and the assorted kinds of conventional gown, Arab tradition could be a new expertise for these from exterior the Muslim world. To study etiquette and practices immediately from Qataris, go to Embrace Doha for experiences that can educate you in regards to the cultural ins and outs right here.
Don’t let preconceptions scare you away
Even earlier than they go to, many vacationers have an opinion about Qatar – nevertheless it’s important to reach with an open thoughts and expertise it for your self. Whereas guidelines, customs and legal guidelines may differ from the place you reside, Qatar has been altering so much lately. After I returned to dwell in Qatar once more after a 15-year absence, I barely acknowledged the place. An increase in worldwide guests has spurred the nation to proceed to work towards extra adjustments.
Solo feminine traveler visiting Qatar? No worries
Many take into account Qatar the most secure nation on the planet – and as a lady residing right here, I’ve by no means felt threatened. (After all, it takes just one unhealthy expertise to vary your view on that, however the identical holds for each nation on the planet.) In Qatar, I normally overlook to lock my entrance door and my automobile, and even go away my purse in my buying cart. You need to use frequent sense as you’d wherever – and count on to really feel secure and welcome.
Strive the favourite native breakfast
Since Qatar is without doubt one of the world’s richest international locations, celebrity-chef eating places abound all through the capital. But vacationers visiting Qatar on a finances can nonetheless discover scrumptious low-cost meals, such because the native favourite breakfast of karak and chapati. A tea made with condensed milk, cardamon, ginger, saffron and sugar, karak is spicy in addition to candy, whereas chapati is a flatbread served normally with honey or cheese (or each!). You may attempt these two staples in most simple-looking cafeterias, at meals stalls in parks or in Katara village. You’ll know the place to seek out them by the hungry locals queuing as much as order.
Study extra in regards to the significance of the beloved nationwide chicken
The falcon is Qatar’s nationwide chicken, and they’re so revered that they’re allowed on flights and even get their very own seat. Doha has a falcon hospital in addition to a falcon market; in your go to, cease at Souq Waqif to have a better have a look at these attractive birds. When you’re there, don’t miss the camels and thoroughbred Arabian horses which might be stabled proper within the metropolis heart.
Qatar is an artwork hub of the Center East
Qatar is greater than luxurious buying and such prestigious sports activities occasions because the 2022 FIFA World Cup: it’s shortly changing into a heavyweight on the Center Japanese artwork scene, too. In Hamad Worldwide Airport alone, you’ll be able to see greater than a dozen installations by such internationally well-known artists as KAWS, Urs Fischer and Jean-Michel Othoneil. Head into the desert at Zekreet to see the gorgeous East–West / West–East by Richard Serra, or go to the big Miraculous Journey by Damien Hirst. Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art is world-class, whereas pockets of avenue artwork complement the capital’s high-culture choices.
Calm down in a park
Most of Qatar’s landscapes are beige and sandy – so take a break from the desert hues at a inexperienced park in Doha. My favourite is MIA Park behind the Museum of Islamic Artwork, which bends round a bay and is stuffed with small meals vans that promote karak, chapati and different goodies. MIA Park not solely has fabulous mature bushes and grass excellent for picnicking, but in addition provides excellent views throughout the skyline, with picturesque wood dhows (conventional boats) moored close by.
Don’t miss out on the desert
It’s simple to maintain busy in Doha, but you’ll be able to’t go away Qatar with out experiencing the desert. As you off-road over sand dunes in a 4WD automobile to, watch flamingos, camp underneath the clear skies of the “inland sea” of Khor Al Adaid and slide down the horseshoe-shaped Singing Dunes, you’ll uncover how the desert lies on the literal coronary heart of Qatar – and the figurative one in every of its individuals.
Get your hands on Qatar’s historical past
Bedouin have lengthy lived across the Arabian deserts, however the tradition’s nomadic life-style signifies that most locations on this area don’t have any historical constructions. But Qatar has few historic surprises, such because the petroglyphs at Al Jassasiya and the Unesco-listed Al Zubarah Fort, each properly price a go to.
Plan the place to have a drink
It’s doable to stave off the warmth with a cool beer in Qatar – however you’ll have to plan forward. You can’t import alcohol into Qatar from duty-free retailers or purchase something however non-alcoholic beer from the grocery retailer, nor are you allowed to drink alcohol in public locations. Alcohol is on the market in Qatar solely on licensed premises, akin to bigger resorts and resort eating places. Most resorts have excellent bars, snug beer gardens or outside eating places the place you’ll be able to sit again with a glass or two.