Here’s a country where the modern world and history sit happily side by side. The world-class city of Doha has one of the most spectacular skylines in the world, yet these futuristic skyscrapers are accompanied by ancient forts, traditional souqs and seemingly endless sand dunes. Its burgeoning culinary scene makes it an ideal holiday destination — there are Michelin-starred chefs galore — and being one of the world’s richest countries, the Qatari capital does a good line in luxury hotel options, too. Whether on a week-long visit, or just a weekend stopover, we’ve picked out five activities that shouldn’t be missed.
Cultural top five
01 Al Zubarah Fort
The walled coastal town of Al Zurabah, with its commanding military fort, is Qatar’s largest UNESCO world heritage site, and lies an hour-and-a-half’s drive north from Doha. It was once an important pearl fishing and trading port but was abandoned in the early 1900s, and its impressive fort now houses an archaeological museum. It’s one of the best-preserved examples of a 19th-century Gulf merchant town, and the views from its walls are as humbling as the site itself, stretching out across vast sand dunes.
02 Souq Waqif
One of the best souqs in the Gulf region, this market in Doha, destroyed by a fire in 2003, has been restored to look like the traditional souq it once was. And it’s thriving; the best place in Qatar to witness traditional dress, find wonderful perfumes and see mounds of fragrant spices. It’s also a great spot to see the art of falconry at work, as well as the Arabian horse stables.
03 Museum of Islamic Art
A work of art in its own right, Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art resembles a spectacular, white cubist palace, and is surrounded by landscaped gardens and a moat. It’s positively a treasure trove, housing the largest collection of Islamic art in the world. There are two exhibitions on at the moment: Imperial Threads (running until 27 January) showcases works from the Turkish, Iranian and Indian dynasties, while Powder and Damask (ending on 12 May), presents ancient Islamic weapons and armour.
04 Katara Cultural Village
Built to preserve ancient Qatari customs and traditions, this imposing complex in northern Doha houses galleries and theatres, with a lively year-round programme of concerts and exhibitions, workshops and conventions. Visitors can also just wander around; it’s an impressive site, built in traditional Qatari style and offering a handicraft souq and book market, as well as an excellent array of restaurants and a mile-long beach. Coming in the evening for dinner and a show is an unforgettable experience.
Completely different, but no less fascinating, is Doha’s Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island housing the beautiful, the rich and the famous. Covering over half a million square feet, its yacht lined marinas and brightly coloured buildings bring to mind a modern-day Venice, with high-end shops and restaurants, all sitting on picture-perfect promenades.
Doha, Qatar Three nights at the five-star Hilton Doha with Qatar Airways flights from London Heathrow, from £715 per person.
For more information, visit southalltravel.co.uk/holidays/middle-east/qatar
Discover more on Qatar at visitqatar.qa