History, hotels, and hospitality are like pillars of society in Qatar. You'll find a plethora of five-star experiences in the cultural cornucopia. East meets West in this diverse country, with over 85% of the population made up of expats from around the world who have set their hat down in the heart of Doha and beyond.
Qatar is a reasonably small peninsula jutting out of the Middle East. With the ultra-modern skyscraper lined Doha being its capital city. Most of its geography can be classed as arid desert. Yet, what the vast dunes lack in infrastructure, they gain in wow factor. In the middle of the desert is “Khor Al Adaid,” known as the inland sea. Dubbed by its UNESCO status as “a remarkable landscape.” So beautiful you'd be forgiven for believing it was a true mirage.
Diverse lifestyles in Qatar mean an international blend of cuisines has influenced the local dishes. Traditional Qatari cuisine largely consists of rice, meat, veggies and seafood due to it's direct access to the coast. If you want to try a true representation of Qatari Gastronomy, head to Baladna. A spectacle in itself, It's basically an agricultural farm in the middle of a desert oasis offering some of the freshest produce you'll ever taste.
Culture in Qatar is heavily influenced by traditional Bedouin culture. Nomads of Arabian life that travelled across the East. Along with Hadar, and Abd culture which makes up the three main groups of Qatari people. Islamic identity is an authority among the residents in the country, along with a large emphasis on the value of family. 80% of Qatar's population live in the modernised skyscraper landscape of Doha. Which as a whole, is considered to be the richest country in the world due to its oil industry and export earnings.
Shopping in Doha
Shopping in Qatar is a captivating experience. Doha, in particular, has world-class shopping malls filled to the brim with luxury goods taking advantage of the tax-free perks. The charming Villaggio Mal has a Venetian theme. Making you feel like you're wandering the picturesque streets of an Italian fantasy. For a truly authentic Qatari experience, get lost among the craftmanship in the souks. Find anything and everything from intricate textiles and rugs, herbs and spices, and knick-knacks you never knew you needed; like a camel bone box. After all, this is Qatar, the place where you can buy your own humpy fellow for less than $4000.
Know Before You Go
Qatar is hot in summer, extremely hot. If you're from anywhere with a less than summery climate, the heat can be a lot to bear and sightseeing can be tiring. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, or go one better and pop up a fancy parasol to afford you a bit of personal shade. After the sun goes down, things begin to cool off, and the cities come alive in the night time. With locals flocking to the restaurants and enjoying the air.
Qatar is a Muslim country so dressing more on the demure side is expected. Always cover up shoulders and legs when in public places. Inside the resorts or at the beach, swimsuits are perfectly acceptable. It might be hot on the street, but indoors is usually heavily air-conditioned so you may want to carry a light scarf or cover up anyway.
As per Muslim laws, alcohol is forbidden. So you won't find any shops selling alcohol in the country. Drinking is a tourist venture only so you can drink in restaurants and hotel complexes.
Public transport is pretty absent across Qatar, so taxis, Uber, or renting a car is the best way to go. Plus, gas is seriously cheap due to Qatar being the third-largest natural gas reserve in the world. The added air conditioning is also a godsend on those hot, humid days.
Don't be alarmed if you see a man wandering around with a live falcon, perhaps even on the plane! Falconry is big business in Qatar. Considered a national pastime and a status symbol among young Qatari men. If you want to get to the bottom of this bizarre seeming passion, head to the Falcon Souq in downtown Doha.
Best Time To Visit Qatar
Winter is bliss in Qatar. Late October to early April is the peak season, but also the best time to enjoy the weather. As temperatures are reasonable and humidity is low enough that sightseeing and outdoor activities can be enjoyed. March is the busiest month, so November and late April are best to beat the peak season crowds.
Qatar can be too hot to bear in the summer (June to September) when temperatures are in the high 40s.
It's best to avoid Ramadan in Qatar as you can't eat or drink in public from sun up till sunset. Most restaurants also close for this time so it's a bit of a no go period. If you happen to be in Doha and it falls around Ramadan, the West Bay area is your best bet as it has a high expat community and some places stay open. Make sure to check the dates as Ramadan falls differently each year.
What To Expect
Qatar is one for the bucket list, here are a few tips to get your perfect trip on the go.
Currency - The official currency in Qatar is the Qatari riyal
Language - The official language is Arabic, though you'll find English commonly spoken in Doha due to its large expat community.
ATMs - ATM's are abundant in Qatar and some of them even provide US dollars. It's good to have cash on you in case you want to haggle in the markets of Doha.
Plugs & Sockets - Qatar uses Type G style plug with 3 rectangular pins. As well as the Type D plug with 3 round pins. The standard voltage is 240v and 50Hz frequency.
Safety - Qatar is high on the list of safe countries, and crime rates are low. Pickpocketing is rare as Qatar has a large police presence.
Climate - Qatar has a desert climate, meaning scorching hot summers with cold nights, and milder, less humid winters.
Qatar sees low rainfall in winter lasting only a few weeks and never in summer.