Travel Guide Middle East Qatar



Camels in Desert

Camels in Desert

© 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.



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.




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.




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




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



Sights and Activities

Modern Architecture

Qatari Fort

Qatari Fort

© tigger89

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 high located in Sports 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.



Events and Festivals


This is the festival that immediately follows Ramadan. It usually falls in the month of August or September, and is celebrated across the country. However, Doha certainly offers the more festive atmosphere. Feasts, dancing, and performances are usually held during the event.


The Islamic month of fasting, called Ramadan, is an important time of the year in Qatar. During the daylight hours, the country is relatively quiet. However, when the sun goes down, fasting is put aside, and locals enjoy a celebratory atmosphere almost every night of the week. Families are often eating feasts, and several areas around the capital city, Doha, are important spots for celebrations. Ramadan usually falls between mid-August and early September.

Art Festival of Qatar

Local artists are extremely talented, so Qatar puts on the Art Festival each December. Many of the art galleries and museums hold exhibitions during the event to showcase local artistic talent. The event also includes artists from nearby Arabic nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Doha Cultural Festival

During the month of March each year, the capital city of Qatar is home to the Cultural Festival. Attracting thousands of visitors annually, this important festival showcases the cultural uniqueness of the area. Traditional music, dance, costumes, and cuisine are mostly found throughout the event.

Doha Tribeca Film Festival

The Doha Tribeca Film Festival is one of the Middle East’s most impressive international events. Film enthusiasts, actors, critics, and directors come from across the globe to enjoy this yearly event, which is held in the month of October across Doha. It lasts for a total of five days and only began in 2009. Nevertheless, it has quickly grown into a reputable global film festival.

Qatar Marine Festival

Beginning in 2010, the Qatar Marine Festival occurs in the month of March each year. It is held at the famous Katara Cultural Village along the Doha seafront. Musical performances, seal shows, aquatic animal displays, and many other features are found at the event. Every year, this interesting festival keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Qatar Masters Golf Tournament

In February, the Doha Golf Club plays host to the Qatar Masters Golf Tournament. Many of the world’s best professional golfers flock to Doha to compete in this tournament, which has been operating since 1998. Thousands of visitors come to the capital of Qatar for this event too. Doha accommodation should be booked in advance, as the Masters Tournament is quite a reputable event drawing in many thousands of spectators.

Qatar Open Tennis Tournament

Played at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, the Qatar Open Tennis Tournament is a popular tennis event, held in January. Many of the sport’s biggest names come to Doha to compete in the event, which means thousands of tennis-lovers also make their way to the Qatari capital. Roger Federer is a yearly competitor at the Qatar Tennis Open.




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.



Getting there


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 Nairobi 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, Al 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.



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 quite 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.



Red Tape

Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not require a visa to visit Qatar, and may use National ID Cards to enter the country.

Citizens of all European Union nations (except Ireland and the United Kingdom), plus the Bahamas, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Norway, Seychelles, Switzerland and Turkey are granted a free multiple-entry visa waiver on arrival, provided they arrive through Hamad International Airport, have a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket. Visa waivers are valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, and entitle its holder to spend up to 90 consecutive days in Qatar.

Citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (PRC), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, the Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela may obtain a visa waiver upon arrival in Hamad International Airport valid for 30 days from the date of issuance. This waiver may be extended for a further 30 days.

Citizens of Macau, Mauritius, Montenegro and Taiwan may obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 30 days.

Citizens of Pakistan can obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days, provided that they hold a passport valid for 6 months, QR5000 in cash or a major credit card, and a confirmed return ticket.

Citizens of Iran travelling on business can obtain a visa on arrival at a cost of QR100 for a maximum stay of 6 days, provided they hold QR5000 in cash or a major credit card, return ticket, upper class hotel reservation and an invitation by a company that is certified by the Government.

Citizens of all nationalities who hold valid residence permits or visas for either the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Schengen Area, or the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation valid for up to 30 days. The visa may be extended online for 30 additional days.

Regardless of nationality, travellers who are in transit through Hamad International Airport do not require a visa if they depart within 24 hours and remain within the airport. Free transit visas, which are valid for up to 96 hours (4 days) and allow travellers to briefly visit Qatar, are also issued to all passengers of any nationality transiting through Hamad International Airport, provided that they travel with Qatar Airways.

For those needing visas, tourist visas are available online through the eVisa system. Visas are issued within four working days if all documents are submitted, and are valid for a stay period up to 30 days in Qatar.

For other visa applications, visa procedures can be complicated, as you will need a guarantor on the Qatari side, either a company or a government entity. Also Qatari embassies, unlike those of most other countries, are not entitled to issue visas, so someone in Qatar will have to file the application for you. 4/5-star hotels offer full visa service, for a price, if you book a room with them for the duration of your stay. Qatar Airways can arrange the hotel and visa for you, tel. +974 44496980 if you contact them in advance (a 7-day notice seem to be required). In this case, there also seems to also be a new regulation in place (2008) to either present a credit card or QR5000 at the point of entry - which should generally not be a problem, if you can afford the room. When booking with other hotels, you'll need a guarantor in Qatar.

For longer stays, visas must be arranged by having a sponsor. Unmarried women under the age of 35 will have a hard time in procuring a visa for a lengthy stay, as the country seems to fear that their safety and well being cannot be guaranteed.

Qatar is among the few Gulf states that officially accepts Israeli passports (with the necessary visas) and passports with evidence of visits to Israel.




See also Money Matters

The national currency is the Qatari riyal (QAR). The riyal is pegged to the US dollar at the rate of QR 3.64 to US $1. One riyal is divided into 100 dirham, with 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 dirham coin denominations. The riyal is available in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 banknote denominations.




Arabic is the official language of Qatar, with the Gulf dialect being particularly common. As Qatar was a British protectorate, and due to considerable globalisation, English is the most common second language. Most locals will be able to converse in basic English, acting as a 'lingua franca' among the various nationalities. However, some foreign workers may not understand either of these languages, and only rely on their native tongue. You may encounter foreign labourers speaking diverse languages such as Afrikaans, Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog and Thai. While you can get by just fine in Qatar with only English under your belt, your hosts and any other locals you may meet will be very impressed and appreciative if you can recite a few basic Arabic phrases.




Qatar has seemingly endless options for food, much of it excellent. If you would like European cuisine in a fancy setting, visit a hotel like the Ramada or the Marriott, both of which also offer excellent sushi and the choice of having alcoholic drinks with your meal (the only restaurants in town that can do this are in the major hotels), but at a steep price. Authentic and delicious Indian and Pakistani food is found throughout the city, ranging from family-oriented places to very basic eateries catering to the Indian and Pakistani workers. You may attract some curious stares in the worker eateries, but the management will almost always be extremely welcoming, and the food is very inexpensive.

Middle Eastern cuisine is everywhere as well, and in many forms - kebabs, breads, hummus, the list goes on. It can be purchased on the cheap from a take-out (many of which look quite unimpressive, but serve awesome food) or from a fancier place, like the wonderful Layali (near Chili's in the 'Cholesterol Corner' area) that serves gourmet Lebanese food and has hookahs with flavored tobacco. Refined Persian cuisine is available for reasonable prices in the royally appointed Ras Al-Nasa`a Restaurant on the Corniche (don't miss the cathedral-like rest rooms).

Don't be afraid to venture into the Souqs looking for a meal; it will be a unique experience in an authentic setting, and although some of the places you see may look rundown, that's just the area in general, and the food will be probably be quite good. Be advised that many of the restaurants in the Souqs (as well as the shops) shut down during the afternoon hours. If you are in a funny kind of mood, you can try a McArabia - McDonald's Middle Eastern sandwich available only in the region.




Hotel prices are on the rise in Qatar, and you can expect to pay as much as US$100 for an ordinary double room in a mid-range hotel. Budget accommodation does not seem to exist in Doha. The only hostel[1] is very hard to find; even the taxi drivers at the airport may have to talk it over! It costs 100 Qatari Riyals per night if you don't have YHA membership, QR90 if you do.




There is one liquor store, Qatar Distribution Centre, in Doha. To purchase things there, you must have a license that can only be obtained by having a written letter of permission from your employer. You can only get a license when you have obtained your residency permit and you will need to get a letter from your employer confirming your salary in addition to paying a deposit for QR1,000. The selection is good and is like any alcohol selection of a large supermarket in the West. Prices are reasonable although not cheap. Alcoholic beverages are available in the restaurants and bars of the major hotels, although they are pricey. Be aware, driving under the influence and public intoxication carry heavy penalties, including deportation, so be responsible. As far as non-alcoholic drinks go, be sure to hit some of the Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants and juice stalls. They whip up some tasty and exotic fruit juice combinations that really hit the spot.

It is forbidden to bring alcohol in to the country as a tourist; at Doha airport customs xray bags and will confiscate any bottles of alcoholic drink. They will issue a receipt valid for 2 weeks to reclaim the alcohol on exit from the country.

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.




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.




See also Travel Safety

Qatar is a significant contrast from the surrounding region, with no war, no conflict and minimal crime.

Western women travelling on their own sometimes experience staring from local men, along with other unwanted curiosity. However, this is more of an annoyance than a threat, and Qatar officials deal harshly with any complaint of harassment. If you want to fit in better with the locals and attract less stares, a long, black cloak and headscarf worn by local women called the abaya can be purchased at a variety of places in Doha.

Travelling on the roads is probably the largest danger to your wellbeing. Although being safer than most other Asian and Middle Eastern drivers, Qataris often ignore road rules and are intolerant of pedestrians attempting to cross the road. Be safe when walking near or over major highways.

Dust storms and sandstorms are another major issue, being common throughout the dry summer. These natural events can shroud the country in darkness and cause severe respiratory issues. If a sandstorm is approaching, immediately seek shelter or wear a facemask.



Keep Connected


See also International Telephone Calls

The emergency phone number for police, ambulance or fire department is 999.

When calling from abroad, the country code of Qatar is 974. There are no city or area codes. When calling overseas while within Qatar, the international access code is usually 0. Qatari phone numbers now have eight digits. Previously, they contained seven, but this was changed by the government regulator in 2010. If you encounter a number with only seven digits, you can still use it by repeating the first digit. For example, a phone number that previously began with '3' would now start with '33'.

Previously, Qtel, a government-owned company, held a monopoly over telecommunications in the country. Although this changed in 2006 when the Emir allowed new companies to be formed, competition is still weak with only two major operators:

  • Ooredoo (formerly Qtel) - the "Hala" prepaid starter pack costs QR 50 with QR 25 of initial credit. International calls to most countries costs QR 0.66/minute. Has overall better coverage than Vodafone.
  • Vodafone Qatar - prepaid sim packs start from QR 60 with an initial credit of QR 35. International calls to most countries costs QR 0.66/minute.


Qatar has a fairly efficient postal system run by Q-Post. There are dozens of post offices scattered across Doha, along with branches in many major cities. It costs QR 2.50 to send a standard postcard to most Western countries. The price drops down to QR 1 to 1.50 when sending a postcard domestically or to most nations within the Middle East and North Africa. Sending parcels can get costly, being counted per kilogram and by distance.


Quick Facts

Qatar flag

Map of Qatar


Traditional Monarchy
Calling Code
Local name


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Qatar Travel Helpers

  • 974iman

    I was born in Qatar.

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

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  • 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.

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