What's it all about?

The 2022 host of the FIFA World Cup is set to get a lot more attention next year as football fans descend, but this desert country has more than brand new stadiums. Discover a blend of ultra-modern architecture and proudly-guarded heritage, with a burgeoning arts scene.

This is a feature from Issue 7 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.

Desert dreams

You can’t visit Qatar and not venture into its sandy interior. A typical desert safari will take you to Khor Al Adaid, otherwise known as the inland sea, an inlet of the Persian Gulf that straddles the border with Saudi Arabia. This serene and extra-salty expanse of blue is surrounded by silvery sand dunes and was a refuge for pirates from Abu Dhabi in the 1800s. Typical tours will take you for some hair-raising dune bashing (racing up and down in a 4WD) and a slightly less bumpy camel ride, before a traditional dinner is served at a fire-lit Bedouin campsite under the stars.

Shopaholic heaven

Top spots include the Mall of Qatar, which has 500,000 square feet of retail space, and the Italianate marble palace of Al Hazm and its range of luxury boutiques. Or wander the narrow alleyways of Souq Waqif for herbs, spices, gold, and traditional hand-crafted items. Make sure you have a mint tea and people watch in this old Bedouin trading post. 

Take a sunset stroll long Doha Corniche, the city's waterfront promenade, to gaze at the skyline.

Vitamin sea

Head to the Arabian Riviera at The Pearl, a luxurious artificial island of four million square metres encompassing a mini Venice. Al Thakira Beach, an hour’s drive north of Doha, is a wildlife rich spot where you can kayak through mangroves, while Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is just one of many beach resorts with silky sands.

Culture & history

There are many museums and galleries in Doha, but the Museum of Islamic Art is the jewel in its cultural crown and the largest collection of its kind in the world, with paintings textiles, ceramics and more from the three continents. Designed by the architect of the Louvre, it’s an angular, elegant white building looking to Doha’s glittering modern skyline across the water. Don’t miss the Katara Cultural Village, a hub for creatives with a plethora of museums, galleries, and mesmerising architecture, from blue and gold mosques to a vast seaside marble amphitheatre. There’s also the National Library of Qatar, designed to look like  a piece of folded paper and the National Museum of Qatar, in the shape of a desert rose. Outside Doha is Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, the ruins of a former pearling port which is dominated by an impressive sand-hued fort.

Join the brunch brigade

A mix of Arabic cafés and glitzy Michelin Star Restaurants will tickle any taste buds. There  are famous names like Hakkasan as well as local stars like L’wzaar Sea Food Market, which buys its catch daily from Dhow Harbour. World-renowned chef Jean-George Vongrichten serves a popular Friday brunch at Marker W in Doha, with a world of flavours. Or try Chef Al Shawarma for juicy spit-roasted meat, including camel.

And another thing...

Qatar has some quirky things to see too…

Go Camel Racing
Its weird but wonderful. The camels are ridden by robots which are controlled by enthusiastic Qatari men, dressed in spotless dishdashas and dashing along in shiny SUVs pointing remote controls out of the window as they drive erratically along the adjacent track.

Visit the Falcon Hospital
This state-of-the-art medical facility in Souq Waqif is a testament to the status of these feathered predators in Arabic culture. Peep inside the waiting room to see hooded falcons perching patiently, perhaps waiting for a wing x-ray.

This is a feature from Issue 7 of Charitable Traveller. Click to read more from this issue.