10 Must Do Things To Do in Qatar

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I’m heading to Qatar this week and came across this useful must list. As they say, there are things to do in Qatar, and there are even a few things that you absolutely MUST do. And so to help all those people who are furiously googling away trying to find out what a Qatar is, here’s a list that the Qatar Happening folks put together that I thought would be useful to repost here. They have a great resource of tons of other interesting things to do as well.  More to be coming from my own perspective and experiences on the ground and after I return.

1) Go to the Spa.  Yes, I do realize that spas exist everywhere, but not like they do here.  Qatar has developed an entire culture around pampering yourself.  Although I had come here from Korea, which also has a unique spa culture, nothing prepared me for the sheer luxury and opulence of the spa experience here.  For many in the country, visiting a spa has become a weekly ritual.  Mani’s, Pedi’s, Massages, Hammams, Scrubs and Colour Therapy abound, and waxing is considered a must, and not just for the women!

For the most memorable spa experience go to the Four Seasons or to the Sharq Village and Spa.   With its Elemental theme the Four Seasons is definitely my favourite spot, especially since you are given the opportunity to use the rest of their facilities for an hour when you book a treatment.  You can lounge in their hot tubs, relax on their laconium beds or try their cold rooms (highly recommended when the temperature reaches + 40).   The spa itself is also extremely beautiful and you’ll find yourself wandering around with your jaw on the floor.

Six Senses at the Sharq Village and Spa is also something to see.  Designed to look like a traditional Arab souq with passageways and bags of hay and metal chains, it’s really something to see.  Unfortunately it’s a bit on the expensive side and the services are not up to the price.  But it has potential and the spa itself is so gorgeous you might not notice the mediocre service.

For less pricey, but equally attractive alternatives try Diva’s Lounge or Habibs (women only unfortunately) they offer a wide list of scrubs, massage, facials, waxing, mani/pedis and in Habibs case haircuts, colours and extensions.

2) Go for Sheisha.  You can’t get much more Arabic then going for Sheisha, and even if you aren’t a smoker, partaking of this traditional pastime is a must do.   You can find Sheisha joints everywhere; however it should be noted that many are men only, and ladies should look at the hotels, Souq Waqif or Al Mourjan on the Corniche if you want to smoke.

You can sample a wide variety of flavours such as grape, pineapple and apple, and my personal suggestions for spots to go are Le Gourmet in Souq Waqif, Al Mourjan on the Corniche or the Sheisha Terrace at Sharq Village and Spa (expensive but lovely).  You can’t beat the atmosphere or view at any of these places.

3) Take a Walk on the Corniche.  All of Doha spreads out from the Corniche, and to glance at it you might think there’s not much happening on it, just a few kilometers of seaside sidewalk, but you would be mistaken.  While there are very few restaurants, the Corniche is the lifeblood of Qatar.  If you take a walk on a Friday or a Saturday you’ll stand in awe at the sheer number of people from every possible background out walking, sitting, picnicking and even sleeping on the grass.   You can see everything from football and cricket matches being played, watch the occasional buskers and jugglers, look at birds and fish, people watch or just enjoy the sunshine.

4) Go explore the desert. Whether it’s a trip out to the Inland Sea or an attempt to go find some of the other natural heritage sites in the country, you absolutely MUST get out of Doha.   I was here for over two years before I realized just how dramatically Qatar changes as you drive north to south, east to west.  From pure sandy white dunes to rocky hills and vast arid planes dotted with scrub brush, there truly is an eerie beauty to this country.

For a full listing of some of Qatar’s heritage sites visit www.heritageofqatar.org (although it still list the Museum of Islamic Art as under construction, it does have a decent list of other sites).   My personal suggestion, for things that aren’t listed there, are the Oryx sanctuary just north of the Al-Zubarah Fort (which is also quite neat).  The sanctuary offers you a chance to observe Arabian Oryx, camels and gazelle in their natural habitat.

On the way to the town of Al Khor there are also the remains of an old Qatari village (these can be found dotted around many places in Qatar).  While there’s not much left in the buildings it does give a good impression of what life was like here before the discovery of oil, and to this day I’ve found it to be one of the most interesting things I’ve stumbled across.   Please note however that this is not on any map and I literally did just find it.  Just follow the North Road and you should find it on the turnoff to Al Khor . . . unless it’s been torn down, which is entirely possible.  (Check the pictures).

Taking a trip out to the Inland Sea is also an incredible experience, and one that is too often passed off here as a ‘tourist thing.’  I know people who’ve lived here a decade and haven’t been out to see it, mainly because of the misconception that you need to go ‘dune bashing’ in order to do it- you don’t.  All you need is a run-of-the-mill SUV, and there’s a virtually straight road to get there.  Believe me; the beauty of this place makes it worth the two-hour drive.

To top it all off there’s loads of beautiful, nearly empty beaches all around the coastline of Qatar, you just need to go find them! Yallah go!

5) Go dune bashing. While the focus of the cultural push in Qatar at the moment is its older heritage and culture, there’s something to be said for modern Qatari culture, most specifically “dune bashing.” This pastime is most definitely not for the faint hearted, but at the same time you’ll find yourself staring with envy as you watch the locals with their land cruisers breach the dunes like a ship breaking through waves.  There’s an artistic beauty to the chaos of it.

I highly recommend finding an experienced driver to take you, but, as my co-worker found out, just because their ad is on the Four Seasons website doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy.  And PLEASE wear your seat belt!  This is not a Disney ride, it’s not safe (no matter how it looks) and there is a chance you’ll be hurt.

6) Visit the Museum of Islamic Art.  Seriously.  It’s phenomenal.  You’ll be as speechless as I am.

7) Visit the Camel Souqs and Falcon Souqs.  They’re pretty much in the same area (on E-ring) and it’s really something to browse the camels and falcons and realize that they’re worth more than your car.   The camel souq is part of a larger souq, aptly referred to as the animal souq, where you can also purchased sheep, goats, cows and even domestic pets.  While it can be a little gruesome (especially the trash bins filled with dead goats) it is an interesting sight, especially for Westerners who are used to getting their meat from the local grocery store.

8) Ride a Camel.  You can do it at Sealine Beach Resort (it’s the only reason to go to Sealine to be honest).  Just don’t fall off!

9) Rent a powerboat or jetski and go to Banana Island. Many of the hotels will rent power boats for the day, and doing so is the perfect way to enjoy the awesome weather we experience almost every day of the year here.   While the Dhows are the more traditional option, they’re also the slower, less exciting one. And if you rent a powerboat you can sometimes get a jetski along with it.  The view of the West Bay skyline as you zip along is unforgettable.

For those who don’t know it, Banana Island is a small spit of sand a kilometer or so off the coast, near the InterContinental Hotel.    There’s not much on it, but it’s a nice stretch of beach and there’s usually quite a few people out there bopping around on a weekend.

10) Go to a Beach Party at the InterContinental.  Beyond a doubt the InterContinetal has the best hotel beach in Doha, and they do love to throw parties on it during the cooler months.    Combine this awesome venue with some of the great (and not so great) DJ’s that come through this city of ours, and you’ve got one hell of a party on your hands.  The only problem is severely overpriced drinks and trying to find your friends in the crowds!
So there you go folks, my guide to things you must do in Qatar.  Please feel free to comment and let us know what you’re favourite things to do are!


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