Qatar, not on everybody’s bucket list but it is gaining momentum on the tourist front especially through layover/stopover offers with Qatar Airways. I have lived in Qatar for over three years and have discovered that people’s perceptions of the country are limited and many people even expats don’t really head off the beaten track. So here are my hidden and not so hidden gems of Qatar!
Most people when they think of the Middle East think of swanky 5* and luxury hotels where expats can sun themselves all year long. One of my favourite hotel beaches at the Intercon – you can read about our recent staycation here
Now while Doha is home to a plethora of 5* hotels there are other beaches off the beaten track which mean you don’t have to go to hotels to catch some rays
Qatar’s coastline offers many diverse beach experiences. Fuwarit to the North of Doha is one of my favourites as it is one of the more sandy beaches. Be careful of the time of year you go as many turtles go there to lay their eggs and the beach and the beach is sometimes closed for their protection.
Perhaps my favourite hidden beach gem is Zekreet on the Western coast. It is a rockier beach but you really feel secluded here despite the fact that you are really close to civilisation being extremely close to the Cuban Hospital. There are other tourist attractions as well as the beach at Zekreet with a film village and the Richard Serra artwork East/West all located here. Please note that you will probably need a 4×4 to get here
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most iconic buildings in Qatar. It was designed by IM Pei and is located on a man made island just off the corniche. I love it as it plays with light and shadows so familiar with traditional Islamic architecture and is said to look like a woman in a batoola (a batoola is a traditional metal face mask worn in the Gulf). The Museum is home to an array of beautiful Islamic arts from jewellery to carpets, armour to astrolabes. It also has a great park.
The Sheikh Faisal Museum located just outside of Doha past Education City. This is the only private museum in Qatar and is the private collection of Sheikh Faisal. It contains personal memorabilia from his life along with an amazing vehicle collection. It is well worth a visit. Please check the website for visiting details.
Did you also know that the Mshereib complex next to Souq Waqif also has four museums now open to the public including the bin Jelmoud House which tell he story of slavery on the region, a house documenting the mshereib project, a historic Qatari house and a museum dedicated to the companies house which documents the history of oil in the country.
Doha is home to amazing 5* hotels and we love nothing more than a staycation. We loved visiting the Intercon and Grand Hyatt but have our sights set on stay cations at the Four Seasons and maybe even the Banana Island Resort. If you are looking for luxury then look no further than Doha’s hotels.
I will admit that I have never stayed at a boutique hotel is Souq Waqif but this has suddenly jumped up my list of things I want to do in Doha. I recently visited one of the boutique hotel restaurants, Gymkhana and had an amazing time and have since then been looking into this boutique hotels. They look to be real hidden gems!
In my opinion, Souq Waqif is the number one tourist destination in all of Qatar. Whenever we have guests in town this is the place they want to go! Any one who has visited Souq Waqif won’t have failed to see the bejewelled and mirror restaurant Parisa. This is one of our favourites in Souq Waqif and is located on the main thoroughfare. This main walkway provides you with plenty of restaurants, souvenir shops and access to the amazing handicraft, gold and art souq but it worth getting lost in the souq as you find some real hidden gems.
Getting lost down the winding lanes of the souq has meant we have found some great discoveries. From amazing fabric shops, to spice shops and even finding a tailor for my husband to get hand made custom suits at the most reasonable of prices, I can not recommend getting lost in the Souq enough. One of my favourite finds has to be the restaurant Bandar Aden, a Yemeni restaurant near the camel souq. I had never experienced Yemeni food before and am so glad I have as it is so distinct from other Middle Easter cuisine. With large breads served with a type of salsa and sizzling pots of stews it is something that must be tried. Added bonus is you get to eat authentically on the floor!
Qatar as the history aficionados probably know has one UNESCO World Heritage Site. Zubarah Fort. The fort was abandoning in the 1930s but in there you can learn about life in Qatar as a trading port.
Although Zubarah is the most well known of the forts, the coast from Al Ruwais to Zubarah is littered with abandoned forts. It is worth driving down the coastal road and visiting each one.
For those who don’t have the time to make the hour and ten minute drive, Barzan Towers located near to Ikea can satisfy your history thirst while never leaving Doha city limits!
You can read more about our explorations of Qatari forts here
Perhaps the best known of all the parks in Qatar is MIA Park. Whenever the weather is good, meaning Winter here, everybody tries to take advantage of the weather by going outdoors. MIA Park is a family favourite with lovely walks, views of the city and a great children’s play area complete with carousel. During the Winter months it has a bazaar on a Friday which is well worth a browse as it is full of amazing local products and handmade goodies such as Pie Lady and Patt’s Handicrafts to name but a few.
Oxygen Park is a new addition to the Doha Park scene and is little known about. It has become our go to Park with Baby E! We love the walk around the park and will be using in the summer aswell as they have thought careful about shade and cooling. It also has a great play park for children and this beautiful flower tunnel. It is a lovely place to while away an afternoon.
If you would like to know more about Things to See and Do in Qatar when not check out my A-Z Guide.
What are your hidden gems in Qatar and how did you find them?