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About Qatar

The State of Qatar is a sovereign and independent state in the Middle East, occupying a peninsula spread over 11,521 sq km that juts 160 km north into the Persian Gulf. Varying in width between 55 and 90 km, the surface area is predominantly flat (with the highest point being 103 metres) and rocky covered with sand flats and dunes. There are some breathtaking low-rise outcrops to the north and northwest of the country. The surface of Qatar is characterised by a variety of geographical phenomena, with interesting coves and inlets scattered along the coastline. 


Useful Information

 

Capital – Doha City: Doha's history may delve back into the 19th century, but the face of the city that visitors see today only really started to emerge after the discovery of oil and Qatar's independence in 1971. Before the discovery of oil, Qatar was noted mainly for pearl hunting. Qatar has been ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. The country is the world's richest per capita and has the highest human development in the Arab World; furthermore, it is recognised as a high income economy by the World Bank.

Over the last few decades the most obvious display of this wealth has come in the form of gleaming skyscrapers and office blocks in the Al Dafna/West Bay area. Qatar is aiming to position itself as a major global tourist destination with hotels, restaurants and purpose-built attractions to match. Billions of dollars have been invested in the Hamad International Airport, The Pearl-Qatar, Lusail City, the rapidly expanding state airline Qatar Airways, and other tourist-orientated developments. There is now plenty for tourists as well as business people to enjoy. In addition to the recently added attractions, Qatar also boasts UNESCO archeological sites, dune bashing tours and dhow cruises

 

Population: As at July 2014 Qatar Statistics Authority puts the country's population at over 2.1 million, 80% of whom live in and around Doha city, which is the political and economic capital. 

 

Climate: Qatar has a desert climate of hot summers and relatively mild winters, with temperatures rarely falling below 7˚C. In summer, the temperature ranges between 25˚ and 48˚C. Rainfall is minimal and on average does not exceed 75.2 mm per year, with rains falling between the months of October and March.

 

Language: Arabic, though English is widely spoken and understood.

Time: GMT+3

Electricity: 240 volts, 3 or 2 pin plugs.

International Dialling Code: 00(country code)(phone number)

Dialling Code, Qatar: +974(phone number)

 

Religion: Islam is the official religion of the country, with Shariah (Islamic Law) being the principal source of legislation in Qatar.

 

Hours of Business: The official working week in Qatar is Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. Government offices are usually open from 6 am – 2 pm through the work week. Commercial offices often have split timings, often from 8 am – 1 pm and 4 pm – 8 pm. Shops are generally open throughout the day, usually from 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, though some shops do close for a few hours in the afternoon, usually from 12:30 pm to 4 pm. Most shops close on Friday afternoon during for an hour during prayer, from 11:30 am – 12:30 am. Shops in malls usually open at  2 pm on Fridays.

 

Currency: The unit of currency is the Qatar Riyal (QAR), which is divided into 100 Dirhams. Notes in circulation are Qatar Riyals in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500. Coins commonly found are 25 and 50 Dirhams. The Qatar Riyal has a fixed exchange rate against the US Dollar – USD1 = QAR 3.64. 

 

Dress Code: Qatar is an Islamic state and it is deemed courteous for visitors to dress modestly. Swimwear is acceptable on hotel beaches or by the pool, but on public beaches T-shirts and a discreet covering of legs is required. Topless sunbathing is not permitted. Be particularly conscious of your attire when visiting malls, souqs or other areas frequented by mixed nationalities.

Women should avoid wearing strappy sleeveless dresses, shorts or see-through fabrics. Men should avoid vest-type T-shirts and brief shorts. It is important to dress modestly during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

 

Alcohol: In Qatar, as in most Islamic countries, alcohol is forbidden by religion, though some four and five star hotels are usually licensed.

 

Taking Photographs: Do ask for permission before you take photographs of traditionally attired individuals. Many older people and most women object to being photographed. Equally, avoid photographing sensitive locations and people, which include members of the police, armed forces, as well as embassies and other government buildings.

 

Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing

 

Archaeological Sites and Forts: For an insight into Qatar’s history, culture and heritage, then visit one of the archaeological sites or old forts. Some of these heritage sites have been partially restored, while others exist as ruins or excavation sites. For example, on the road between Al Ruwais and Al Zubara are many buildings and ruins in an abandoned village at Al Jumail. At Al Khor the Tower and Museum overlooks the corniche and was built in 1900 – nearby is the museum where you can learn about the myth of Ghilan and Mae, the region’s first female pirate, and see the displays of marine life. And of course you can't miss taking a trip out to Al Zubarah Archeological Site, Qatar’s only entry on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which is approximately 100 km northwest of Doha.

 

Aqua Park: Aqua Park features a variety of rides and entertainment for both children and adults, and is a great place to cool off in the summer heat. The Park has an African village for toddlers, a lazy river, children's activity pool, multiple slide complex, a wave pool and a lagoon pool, Jacuzzis and a green path built to resemble a forest track.

 

Beaches: There's nothing as fun as a day at the beach, relaxing on the sand and swimming in the sea. Luckily, Qatar's coastline is over 560 km, so there are plenty of beaches to choose from. Some, like the Inland Sea (Khor Al Adaid) can only be reached by four-wheel-drive while others, such as Al Wakra, are only a short drive away and suitable for all cars. To go camping, Ras Abrouq (Bir Zekreet) beach is very popular.

 

Four family beaches have been opened in Al Wakra, Al Khor, Simaisma and Al Kharayij at Umm Bab. All the beaches are cordoned off and have toilets, platforms for barbecuing, play areas for children, playgrounds for football and volleyball, beach umbrellas and canopies.

Katara Beach is 1.5 km long and open to the public, with a token admission fee. A play area is located by the beach where children can enjoy a variety of activities, games and rides as well as child friendly watersports. Opening times: 10 am – 6 pm. Admission: Adults QR100, children 6 – 16 years old QR50, under 6 years old free; separate fees apply for watersports activities and lessons.

 

Bin Zaid (Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center): Previously known as Fanar Islamic Cultural Center, Bin Zaid was first named on a colloquial Qatari term – Fanar – which was borrowed from the Turkish language and loosely translates into 'lighthouse'. Bin Zaid features iconic architectural design and a great location close to Doha's Corniche, opposite Souq Waqif on Grand Hamad Street. The Center is a Qatari milestone recognised by its Islamic inspired design, with visitors getting to experience a traditional welcome, followed by a guided tour around the Hall, Mosque, Arabic Education facilities, Arabic calligraphy and culture room.

 

Camel Racing: Historically, the Bedouin of Qatar used camels extensively in day to day life – for transportation, as well as for food and milk – and as such camels were considered to be of significant value. Today, camels are still prized, primarily racing camels. Camel races are frequently held at the main racetrack at Al Shahaniya, a 30 minute drive west of Doha along the Dukhan highway. At the racetrack, there is a large spectator stand but most locals choose to follow the racing camels, thereby adding to the excitement of the race. The racing season runs from October to May. Contact Gulf Adventures for an up to date racing calendar.

 

Horse Racing: Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world, and one that's much loved in Qatar. The Racing and Equestrian Club organises a number of seasonal horse races (October to March) – both local and international – where the competition is fierce, and the horses magnificent.

 

Khor Al Adaid (The Inland Sea): The Inland Sea is one of Qatar’s finest treasures and a tourist hotspot. It is best undertaken in a four-wheel-drive to reach the country’s southernmost point – it’s also a good idea to go in a convoy and go with somebody who has been before. Enjoy the crescent-shaped sand dunes that rise above the shallow tidal lake. Enjoy day trips, overnight camps, and rides along the dunes, as well as picnics, barbecues, folkloric entertainment, camel riding and sandboarding when you join a tour group.

 

Museum of Islamic Art: Designed by renowned architect IM Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is putting Doha on the map of the world art scene, in fact the Chairperson of MIA, Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani, is currently named as the art world’s most powerful woman.

Rising in angular tiers on the south end of Doha Harbour, the Museum of Islamic Art holds the largest collection of Islamic art in the world, creating a bridge from the past to the future with a collection dating from the 7th to the 19th century, offering a comprehensive overview of Islamic art through the ages. The collection includes manuscripts, ceramics, metal, glass, ivory, textiles, wood, and precious stones from three continents. Visitors can enjoy a morning or afternoon touring the museum.

 

Katara:  Katara brings together the culture, arts and cuisines of countries around the world. It is Qatar's focal point for multi-cultural activities, with concerts, fashion shows and art exhibitions throughout the year. Katara also hosts educational events, photographic competitions and charity bazaars, and has an art studio.

Katara comprises a beautiful collection of Arabian-style buildings, with alleyways protected from the sun with 'swails' (sail shading). There is a stunning mosaic-covered mosque and bird-feeders, and plenty of outlets offering snacks and al fresco dining. Katara is home to the Opera House and a stunning amphitheatre.

 

Oryx Farm (Almaha Sanctuary): Once threatened with extinction, the oryx were shipped in from Oman and now live and breed in Qatar, and Almaha Sanctuary is home to one of the largest herds in the world. Known as maha in Arabic and referred to as al wodhi (the clear), because of its light colour, catching a glimpse of an oryx in the wild is rare. We can help arrange a visit to the Al Sheehaniya nature reserve.

 

Parks and Recreation Areas: There are plenty of parks in Qatar, with the most popular being Aspire Park, Sheraton Park, MIA Park, Arumalia Park, Dahl Al Hamam Park, and Al Wakra Park. Entrance is free, with weekends and evenings being the busiest. Facilities at each park vary though most have water coolers, toilets, children's play areas, and a cafeteria. There are currently seven iParks offering free WiFi: Al Khor, Al Wakra, Arumaila, Dahl Al Hamam, Dukhan, Sheraton and Simaisma.

 

Singing Sand Dunes: Stories of strange, low-pitched sounds in the sand have intrigued people and Qatar is one of the few places in the world it can be heard. The sound is caused by the friction when a thin layer of sand blows down the leeward side of the dune. The eerie resonant humming can be heard from up to 10 km away as it is amplified by the crescent shape of the barchan dunes. You can find the ‘Singing Sand Dunes’ 40 km southwest of Doha.

 

Souq Waqif: Literally translated as 'the standing market', this shopping destination is renowned for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. The souq has evolved from its origins as a weekend market used by the Bedouin when they came into town to trade their meat, wool, weaving materials, and milk for other staple goods. The souq is now a maze of narrow alleys filled with small shops, with goods piled high and spilling out onto the pavement.

You'll find separate sections selling clothing and textiles, luggage, tools, general hardware, gardening equipment, tents and camping equipment, kitchenware, spices, incense and perfumes, sweets, nuts, and dried fruit. In 2005 the souq was refurbished to a look much in keeping with its roots, with an added variety of shops selling falcons, traditional shisha cafes, eight five-star hotels and a number of restaurants that offer cuisines from around the world. Using age old building methods, external walls have been constructed using rough stone, ceilings from palm leaves, bamboo and rope, to create the same rustic look that prevailed 100 years ago.

 

General historical data puts the souq very close to the shore of the Arabian Gulf and was part of the area called Wadi Mushareeb.       

In the early 1940s, the middle parts of the valley – Wadi Mushareeb – seemed to have been flooded. Consequently, traders, vendors and buyers used to conduct their trades and transactions higher up in the valley while standing rather than sitting or squatting. Thereafter the souq came to be called Souq Waqif (standing market).   

 

Umm Tais National Park: There is a national park on the northeastern tip of Qatar on the uninhabited island of Umm Tais. The mangrove forests, beaches and varied geological structures, changing water levels and sea currents, provide a varied habitat that is teeming with marine and bird life. It also nurtures an important turtle‑nesting beach.

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