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Qatar

Photo © bobrk607

Travel Guide Middle East Qatar

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Introduction

Camels in Desert

Camels in Desert

© All Rights Reserved Not Lost

If the Arabian peninsula can be viewed to represent a fat, stubby foot, Qatar is the tragically placed mole at the front of the leg just above the foot. It's a little-noticed, oil-rich country where Islam is the guiding principle of life. That said, it isn't quite as strict as neighbouring Saudi Arabia; women have greater liberty and alcohol is legal.

Qatar's dry environment left it unoccupied for many centuries. When it was settled in any meaningful sort of a way, it was by bedouins, whose lifestyle was well-suited to the penninsula's conditions. Most tourists will find it a testing climate, but for those who can handle it, the country affords fantastic desert expeditions. The burial mounds at Umm Salal Ali are worth the trek from Doha; they are said to be well over 5,000 years old.

Qatar is only just starting to really develop its tourist industry, so if you want to get in before the rush, now is the time to head over. Qatar technically only shares international borders with Saudi Arabia. Although it is very easy to get to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

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Brief History

Recent discoveries on the edge of an island in the west of Qatar indicate early human presence in pre-historic Qatar. Discovery of a 6th millennium BC site at Shagra, in the southeast of Qatar revealed the key role the sea (Gulf) played in the lives of Shagra’s inhabitants. Islam swept the entire Arabian region in the 7th century. In medieval times, Qatar was more often than not independent and a participant in the great Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean commerce. Many races and ideas were introduced into the peninsula from Africa, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Malay archipelago. Today, the traces of these early interactions with the oceanic world of the Indian Ocean survive in the small minorities of races, peoples, languages and religions, such as the presence of Africans and Shihus.
The Al Khalifa family of Bahrain dominated the area from mid 1850s until 1868 when at the request of Qatari nobles, the British negotiated the termination of the Bahraini claim, except for the payment of tribute. The tribute ended when the Ottoman Empire occupied Qatar in 1872. It was ruled also by Safavid Iran between 1680-1717, 1730-1736 and 1753-1783, by Oman between 1717-1730 and 1736-1753 and by Bahrain 1783-1818 and 1830-1868.

When the Ottomans left at the beginning of World War I in 1915, the British recognised Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani as the ruler. The Al Thani family had lived in Qatar for 200 years. The 1916 treaty between the United Kingdom and Sheikh Abdullah was similar to those entered into by the British with other Persian Gulf principalities. Under it, the ruler agreed not to dispose of any of his territory except to the U.K. and not to enter into relationships with any other foreign government without British consent. In return, the British promised to protect Qatar from all aggression by sea and to lend their good offices in case of a land attack. A 1934 treaty granted more extensive British protection.

In 1935, a 75-year oil concession was granted to the Qatar Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which was owned by Anglo-Dutch, French, and U.S. interests. High-quality oil was discovered in 1940 at Dukhan, on the western side of the Qatari peninsula. However, the start of World War II delayed exploitation of Qatar's oil resources, and oil exports did not begin until 1949. During the 1950s and 1960s gradually increasing oil revenues brought prosperity, rapid immigration, substantial social progress, and the beginnings of Qatar's modern history. When the U.K. announced a policy in 1968 (reaffirmed in March 1971) of ending the treaty relationships with the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Qatar joined the other eight states then under British protection (the seven trucial sheikdoms - the present United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) in a plan to form a union of Arab emirates. By mid-1971, as the termination date of the British treaty relationship (end of 1971) approached, the nine still had not agreed on terms of union. Accordingly, Qatar declared independence as a separate entity and became the fully independent State of Qatar on September 3, 1971.

In February 1972, the Heir Apparent, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, deposed his cousin, Ahmed bin Ali Al Thani, and assumed power. Key members of the Al Thani family supported this move, which took place without violence or signs of political unrest. On June 27, 1995, the Deputy Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Amir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. An unsuccessful counter-coup was staged in 1996. The Amir and his father are now reconciled, though some supporters of the counter-coup remain in prison. The Amir announced his intention for Qatar to move toward democracy and has permitted a freer and more open press and municipal elections as a precursor to expected parliamentary elections. Qatari citizens approved a new constitution via public referendum in April 2003, which came into force in June 2005.

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Geography

Qatar lies between latitudes 24° and 27° N, and longitudes 50° and 52° E. Much of the country consists of a low, barren plain, covered with sand. To the southeast lies the spectacular Khor al Adaid (Inland Sea), an area of rolling sand dunes surrounding an inlet of the Persian Gulf. The highest point in Qatar is Qurayn Abu al Bawl at 103 metres above sea level and is located in the Jebel Dukhan to the west, a range of low limestone outcroppings running north-south from Zikrit through Umm Bab to the southern border. The Jebel Dukhan area also contains Qatar’s main onshore oil deposits, while the natural gas fields lie offshore, to the northwest of Qatar's coast.

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Regions

Qatar is made up of 10 municipalities.

  • Ad Dawhah also known as Doha
  • Al Ghuwariyah also known as Al Ghariyah
  • Al Jumaliyah
  • Al Khawr also known as Al Khor
  • Al Wakrah
  • Ar Rayyan
  • Jariyan al Batnah
  • Ash Shamal
  • Umm Salal
  • Mesaieed also known as Umm Said

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Cities

  • Doha, the capital, is home to over 90% of Qatar's population
  • Al Wakrah
  • Al Khawr
  • Mesaieed

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Sights and Activities

Qatari Fort

Qatari Fort

© All Rights Reserved tigger89

Modern Architecture

Experience the building boom of downtown Doha. New and crazy buildings are going up ever minute in this city that was nothing more then a few adobe structures a century ago. One of the most interesting is the Aspire Tower which is 318 metres (1050 ft) high located in Sprots City in Doha. The tower dominates the city scape and offers great views from the top.

Zubarah Fort

The Zubarah Fort was only built in 1938 in order to protect the town of Zubarah. There have been many forts built on this location because the town has been a major trading center for several centuries. The fort was restored in 1987 and is amazing tourist site. Its two large towers that offer excellent views.

Umm Salal Ali Mounds

Umm Salal Ali Mounds are located in the city of Umm Salal Ali only 40 kilometres from Doha. These mounds are very different from the mounds located in different countries around the Middle East. Some of of the mounds even date back to the third millennium BC. These mounds would be a very good introduction to ancient Middle Eastern burial practices.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Shopping - Large shopping malls have moved into the country with all the different world class designers being represented. This is one of the best places in the world to buy an expensive pen or watch!
  • Diving - Enjoy diving at some artificial reefs.
  • Boating - Go for a motor boat ride or sailing in the amazing bays around Doha.
  • Golf - Hit a few balls at the Doha Golf Club, remember its not cheap.
  • Desert Safari - Climb 60 m sand dunes and see the inland sand sea.
  • Oryx Farm and Equestrian Club - Watch these pure Arabian horse up close and personal in their original habitat.

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Weather

Qatar has an arid climate with warm to hot weather. There is no rain whatsoever from May to October. From November to April, there are about 2 to 6 days a month with some rainfall, totalling less than 100mm of rain a year. Temperatures are pleasant from November to April. January is the coldest month with average maximum temperatures of 20 °C, dropping to 13 °C at night. June and July are the hottest months with daytime temperatures averaging 40 °C and nights still around 30 °C! Temperatures hitting 50 °C are not uncommon during summer and together with sometimes humid conditions makes this time almost unbearable.

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Getting there

Plane

Doha International Airport receives all international flights and most flights to and from the country are with the national airline Qatar Airways, known as one of the best airlines in the world. Destinations with Qatar Airways to and from Doha include Nairboi and Dar es Salaam in the east of Africa, South African cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, all countries in North Africa, lots of destinations in Asia, especially to China, India and Pakistan and many larger cities in Southeast Asia and Europe like Bangkok and London. The United States are served as well, with flights to and from New York (Newark) and Houston.
Neighbouring countries and other countries throughout the Middle East have connections on almost a daily basis and lots of other airlines in the region fly to Qatar as well.

By Car

Usually, only residents of Qatar and Saudi Arabia cross the border of the two countries. You need your own transport and a valid transit visa if you want to travel through Saudi Arabia, so getting to Qatar by car is not really an option. Of course, in case you manage, have your papers and insurance in order. In the future, Qatar might be linked to Bahrain, via a very long causeway.

By Bus

Saudi Arabia Public Transport Co travel between Doha and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, with onward transport to Amman, Damascus, Manama, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait. Again, you need a valid transit visa for Saudi Arabia and a visa and onward transport for you next destination.

By Boat

Several ferries and fast catamarans travel between Iran and Qatar. Connections include Bushehr to Qatar. Check the Iran Traveling Center for more details about schedules and prices.

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Getting Around

By Car

Roads are in a good condition but driving skills of locals are not always the same as you might be used at home. Drive defensively. Cars are available at the international airport or in Doha and traffic drives on the right. You need your national driver's licence or international driving permit.

Renting a car is quiet easy. All you need is an international valid licence and a creditcard. There are quiet a few options to rent a car like Avis, Budget, Hertz and so on. Petrol is cheaper than water. A liter of unleaded petrol costs about US$0.22.

By Bus

Mowasalat offers brand new buses that ply the routes between Doha and most major towns in this small country.
Otherwise, taxis can take you anywhere, but of course at a cost. Taxis are generally best used in Doha only and rental cars if you wish to visit more of the country and can share costs with a few other people.

By Foot and Bike

Doha is easily explored on foot while for trips outside Doha you can also rent bikes. For trips further away though renting a car still is the best option.

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Red Tape

Nationals of the following countries can get a visa upon arrival:

France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Spain, Monaco, Vatican City, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States.

All other nationalities need to apply for a visa at the nearest embassy or consulate of Qatar.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The riyal (QAR) is the currency of Qatar. It is divided into 100 dirham.

US$ 1 = QAR 3.65

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Language

Arabaic is the official language of Qatar but English is widely spoken.

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Eat

There is a vast variety of dining places, especially around the city of Doha, ranging from your average junk food such as Mc Donalds to Burger King and the more classy restaurants and bars. Note that pork is not sold in restaurants and bars as it is considered to be restricted by the Muslim religion.

A few useful sites would be Qatar Happening and Qatar Living

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Drink

There are quiet a few bars and clubs in Doha. A few examples are:

  • Admirals Club at The Ritz Carlton
  • Glo and Champions bar at The Marriot Renaissance.
  • Wahm and Crystal at The W.

Do carry your original passport as clubs and bars are quiet strict on legal age, which is 21 years.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Qatar.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Qatar. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid. Vaccination against, tuberculosis, rabies and hepatitis B is also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

Qatar in general is one of the safest countries in the world for travellers.
Always carry your passport or visa copy while moving around.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

You can get a pre paid sim car on arrival at the airport for under US$ 10. Top up for the pre paid sim can be purchased at any store or mall.

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Quick Facts

Qatar flag

Map of Qatar

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Capital
Doha
Population
1,680,000
Government
Traditional Monarchy
Religions
Islam
Languages
Arabic
Calling Code
+974
Nationality
Qatari
Local name

Contributors

as well as Lavafalls (11%), 974iman (8%), dr.pepper (1%)

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Qatar Travel Helpers

  • anindian

    I am an Indian guy working in Oman. I have also worked in UAE & QATAR and being in Marketing profession, I have travelled all over these countries.

    Ilooking for pals aroung the globe, with whom I can exchange holidays i.e They come to my country and I will go to theirs or may be we can travel together to save money. Right now I am based in Oman.

    Ask anindian a question about Qatar
  • 974iman

    I was born in Qatar.

    I have seen this place become epic from mere sand dunes and desert,

    Ask 974iman a question about Qatar
  • ashwin

    Qatar is a small country in the Arabian Gulf region that has been promoting itself as an inbound tourist destination. I have been living here since the past nine years, working as a journalist for a local newspaper. I could help provide any travel related information to those interested in visiting this beautiful land.

    Ask ashwin a question about Qatar

Accommodation in Qatar

This is version 34. Last edited at 12:36 on Jun 8, 13 by Peter. 16 articles link to this page.

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