Qatar is developing at a rapid rate that it is fast becoming one of the regions in the world synonymous with luxury and opulence.
Qatar has been able to maintain it’s rich Arab culture and regality for centuries, making it a great region to explore.
For the wealthy, it can pass for an exclusive playground where one can enjoy art, architecture, gastronomy and luxury shopping while learning the rich Qatari culture in the Middle East.
With the FIFA World Cup around the corner and Qatar the destination of choice, here is all you need to know about Qatar, from the bespoke accommodation to activities to do while exploring in the country and the rules to follow to make sure that you stay safe.
Best places to stay
Banana Island Resort Doha
Just off the coast of downtown Doha, Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara is a crescent of golden beach. It’s water villas are accessible by private catamaran and it provides the perfect escape for family adventures, ocean thrills or serene spa bliss.
It’s the Middle East’s only wellness centre in an island resort setting spread across lush botanical gardens and boasts 141 sea view rooms, suites, beach and over water pool villas.
Enjoy a wide selection of dining options and flavours including Middle Eastern cuisine, Mediterranean and Indian cuisine. There’s also a wide variety of water sports for entertainment, including surfing, diving and motorised water sports. Price: From R7 526 a night
Four Seasons Hotel Doha
The Four Seasons is known as a seaside retreat in the heart of Qatar’s capital. It offers the world’s finest variety of dining options including the world famous Nobu Restaurant.
The hotel is also an urban retreat overlooking the Arabian Gulf with light-filled spaces. It features airy clean and airy interior design for all its suites, making one feel as though you’ve have stepped into heaven.
The Four Season Hotel Spa boasts expertise in remedies combining science and nature, and treatment rooms unique for the location, making it the ideal place to take care of your physical and mental well-being. Price: From R7 309 a night
Hilton Salwa Beach Resorts and Villas
Hilton Salwa Beach Resort on the sunny south-west coast provides luxury accommodation and beachfront theme-park suitable for the whole family.
Spanning 3.5km of private beach, the resort hideaway features a luxury spa, a marina, and a water and adventure park with slides and rides.
It boasts more than 20 restaurants which showcase global flavours in unforgettable settings, including an underwater dining experience.
Relax and enjoy the garden vistas and views of the sparkling gulf from the resort’s collection of 361 rooms, suites, and exclusive villas. Price: From R6 172 a night
Marsa Malaz Kempinski Doha
The Marsa Malaz Kempinski is an oasis of comfort, tranquillity and privacy which reflects the ultimate luxury of a genuine and majestic palace. It is an embodiment of both Arabian and European elegance offering breathtaking views over the Arabian Gulf and the Pearl-Doha from the spacious balconies of its 281 rooms and suites.
The hotel offers a family-friendly experience of Doha, from a blissful culinary experience with seven restaurants and four stylish bars and lounges, to unique facilities, such as the award-winning Spa by Clarins, a private beach, outdoor pools, a tennis court, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, and thrilling kids’ and adults’ activities, including water sports and a kids’ club. Price: From R5 192 a night
Mandarin Oriental, Doha
Mandarin Oriental is considered an intimate and stylish urban retreat located in the centre of Msheireb Downtown Doha.
Msheireb is the new lifestyle and cultural heart of the city and the hotel blends chic and contemporary design with touches of Qatari heritage, bringing new levels of luxury to Qatar.
Designed by the world-renowned David Collins Studio, the hotel’s rooms, suites and serviced apartments blend an elegant, contemporary design with subtle elements of traditional Qatari heritage.
It offers a wide selection of dining options, including a British tea lounge and dessert lounge that serves a variety of gelato.
The Spa and Wellness centre also offers VIP suites, taking exclusivity to new heights while providing private and holistic spa treatments. Price: From R7 342 a night
What to do?
Explore the Pearl
Qatar’s Pearl is a man-made island near Doha’s West Bay District. It features Mediterranean-style yacht-lined marinas, residential towers, villas, hotels and also offers a luxurious shopping experience with premium designer boutiques and showrooms.
The Pearl, known for pearl diving which was an important part of the Qatar economy is now home to modern dining spots from refreshing ice-creams to five-star culinary experiences.
The Arabian Riviera is a popular visitor attraction and has enough activities to keep a traveller enticed.
Qatar is one of the few regions in the world where the desert meets the sea. The desert is an integral part of local culture and offers a surprising array of activities.
Khor Al Adaid, also known as the Inland Sea, is a UNESCO site south of the city.
For the thrill seeker, nothing beats a camel ride over the soft dunes or embarking on an exhilarating desert safari over the dunes to Khor Al Adaid.
Khor Al Adaid is accessible only by 4×4 vehicles while visitors can also sandboard along the dunes, hit the dunes on a quad bike, ATV or dune buggy. Other activities also include paragliding and kite-surfing over the desert.
Visitors can also enjoy daytime, evening, or overnight camping trips in the desert which is a favourite Qatari pastime.
The Inland Sea is also home to wildlife, marine life and vegetation such as turtles, flamingos, dugongs, Arabian oryx and camels, just to name a few.
Qatar holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest continuous cycle path and features 29 underpasses and five bridges to encourage non-stop riding away from the road.
Cycling in Qatar offers a great way to to engage with the sights, sounds and culture of the land.
The 5/6 Park and Olympic Cycling Track are just some of the places that are designed to accommodate cycling which is steady growing in the country.
National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar is home to a multitude of archaeological and heritage objects, manuscripts, photographs, jewellery and costumes that pay homage to Qatari culture.
According to Visit Qatar, these objects bring to life the story, not only of Qatar, but also the region.
The museum also features the pearl carpet of Baroda, commissioned by the Maharajah of Baroda, India in 1865 and also comprises over 1.5 million pearls, as well as diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires set in gold and woven onto a base of silk and fine deer hide, and illustrates how widely used gemstones were in the region.
The museum complex also includes permanent and temporary galleries, a 220-seat auditorium, two cafés, a restaurant, a gift shop, heritage research centres and museum collection storage.
Do’s and don’ts when visiting Qatar
As a Middle Eastern country, Qatar’s Constitution states that Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation, however, Qatar’s legal system is a mixture of civil law and Sharia law in practice.
Alcohol consumption is illegal in Qatar with the exception of some five-star luxury hotels that are allowed to sell alcohol to their non-Muslim customers. However, Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol, and those caught consuming it are liable to flogging or deportation. For the World Cup, Qatari officials have also indicated a willingness to allow alcohol in “fan zones”.
The consumption of pork is also frowned upon and the Qatar Distribution Company, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, is the only company permitted to import alcohol and pork.
Public displays of affection are also prohibited including illicit sexual relations. This means that kissing, hugging and in some places, holding hands is not allowed.
Having sex outside of marriage is considered adultery, while homosexuality is a crime punishable by the death penalty.
As a conservative nation with a strict dress code, women tourists are advised not to wear leggings, miniskirts, sleeveless dresses, or short or tight clothing in public, while men are warned against wearing only shorts and singlets.
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