Every year, Qatar receives a large number of foreigners who move there for lucrative job opportunities, tax-free income and a high quality of life. Despite the fast-paced work life and extreme weather of this desert destination, there are a number of things that expats can do for recreation and leisure. Here are 5 must-try experiences in Qatar.
Dhows are traditional Qatari fishing boats that were originally used by merchants. Today these modest wooden sailing vessels have been transformed into comfortable boats equipped with most amenities and are used to take passengers on luxury cruises.Qatar is a major destination for dhow cruising and the activity is especially popular along the Doha Corniche. There are many dhow cruise operators that charge between QR15 to QR20. There are discounts available for groups and the rates are often negotiable. Some cruises also include fine dining experiences. A typical Qatari dhow cruising experience will involve a soothing ride from Doha to the island of Al Safliya, where guests can either go swimming or snorkeling, or simply relax under the sun while enjoying a barbeque buffet.
Doha Fort (Al Koot)
Doha Fort or the Al Koot Fort served as a military fortress and a way to protect the nearby Waqif souq from thieves. It was converted into a museum in 1978 and houses traditional Qatari handicrafts and art. Some of the exhibits include wooden and gypsum ornaments, boats, historical photographs and artworks depicting daily life. It also served as a police station and a jail. A unique feature of the fort is its courtyard mosque that has neither walls nor a roof. This was done so that guards could keep a watch on the prisoners even during prayer times. The fort itself was built during the Ottoman rule over Qatar in 1880.
Khor Al-Adaid is referred to as an ‘inland sea’ but is actually a large saltwater inlet located in the southeast of Qatar. The inlet protrudes into the desert and is flanked by enormous sand dunes. This landmark is accessible only in four-wheel drive vehicles and many tour operators offer day and overnight camping trips. Most of these trips happen in the late afternoon, as this is the best time to visit the sand dunes. The overnight camping trips are also popular among visitors. Dune bashing is the reason most people come to Khor Al-Adaid. This is an activity that involves driving up the towering sand dunes, going right over the top and either landing back on the sand or taking an exhilarating slide down the side of the dune. Along with thrilling rides along the dunes, these trips include other enjoyable activities like camel rides, sand skiing and barbeques.
Souq Waqif or standing market is the only traditional souq in the gulf region. It is situated between Musherib Street and Al Rayyan Road in the center of Doha. A short walk from the Doha Corniche, this market has a variety of products on sale such as dried fruits, clothes, perfumes, pashminas and spices. You can also find some beautiful Qatari artifacts here. It’s customary to bargain with the shopkeepers, but after some serious haggling you can treat yourself to a variety of Qatari specialties at the many restaurants that line the main street of the market. There are also little cafes where you can enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee as well as shisha lounges if you’re in the mood for a smoke of flavored tobacco. Some of the restaurants and cafes remain open quite late, while a few of them serve customers throughout the night.
Al Zubarah is a deserted town on the northwestern coast of the Qatar peninsula. The 18th century town was built by merchants from Kuwait and was once a global trading and pearl fishing hub. The layout of the settlement has been well preserved and serves as an important insight into the urban life and history of the gulf region prior to the discovery of oil and gas. The region has two excavated sites, one of which was excavated between 1982 and 1984 and many of the artifacts that have been retrieved are displayed in the Al Zubarah fort. The second site is still undergoing excavation.