Qatar - Visions of the Desert
Qatar is one of the wealthiest country's on earth and one which has only just started to draw on unlimited resources. Its it the beginning of a wonderful tourist destination. We can only wait and see when travellers will discover this new holiday paradise.
Geography - A hot peninsula
The State of Qatar protrudes from the Arabian Peninsula like a thumb - a peninsula which was once a complete island. Today it borders on Saudi-Arabia in the south and is separated from it by a great salt pan. In front of Qatar's coast you see the Kingdom of Bahrain and several smaller islands which belong to the Emirate of Qatar. The desert country is divided into seven communities: Doha, Al Khor, Al Wakrah, Al Rayyan, Al Shamal, Umm Salal and Al Daayen. At most times of the year, the country's climate is unbearable for visitors as Qatar is one of the hottest and driest countries on earth. The temperatures of 40 to 50 °C and the enormous humidity in the summer months can quickly turn into an ordeal for people who are not used to it. The stuffiness decreases in winter, when temperatures sink below 30 °C and even reach 10 °C at times.
Nature - Dry deserts and deserted sandy beaches
Deserts, salt lakes, flat hilly landscapes and scree - Qatar's scenery is rather uniform. The panorama is interrupted by artificially created oases and a small number of palms and pricky shrubs, which occur in the north of the country. Due to the extreme climatic conditions, the biodiversity is very low. Only a few geckos and monitor lizard as well as several migrating birds are able to survive in these climes. The life at the Persian Gulf is considerably more lush. Sperm whales and dolphins populate the waters in front of the coast. Altogether Qatar has 550 kilometres of coast. It also accommodates fine sandy beaches and dunes.
Natural sights - The singing sand dunes
One of the country's main attractions is Khor Al Adaid, often called the "Inland Sea". It is the point at which the sea separates the emirate from its neighbour Saudi-Arabia in a narrow arc. Many inhabitants enjoy visiting this idyll to have a picnic. The nearby deserts are home to several camels, which invite visitors to go on an extraordinary ride. Qatar now contains the nature reserve near Al Shahaniya and the worldwide unique oryx farm, where the rare oryx antelopes become a permanent feature of the desert world again. One of the emirate's mysteries are the singing dunes. When the great masses of sand slip, the surrounding hot air vibrates and makes a unique humming noise, which can be heard for miles. In the far north of Qatar you find the uninhabited island of Umm Tais with the national park of the same name, which contains mangroves, remote bays and deserted beaches.
Culture - Connecting with the world
Qatar's development is similar to that of other Arab countries. The capital of Doha was once a poor fishermen's village. The nation achieved some success by selling pearls. Towns like Al Khor were pearl diving centres. The great turn of events was caused by the oil boom in the 1970s, which Qatar still benefits from. In fact, the Qatari own the third greatest gas reserves on earth, which amount to unbelievable 25 trillion cubic metres of natural gas. This way, the country does not have to worry about its finances for decades to come. Like the rich cities of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar has realised that its oil and gas reserves will dry up some day. That is why they focus on new mainstays such as tourism. Dubai is still way out in front but Qatar prides itself on being the emirate's "little brother" and invests a lot of money into the construction of gigantic, futuristic skyscrapers. Another factor which is supposed to attract visitors is the hospitality of the Arabs. Despite all open-mindedness, however, Qatar's culture is influenced by the Islam, so travellers should adhere to the country's customs and manners.
Cultural sights - A start has been made
The development of cultural sights is still in the early stages. One attraction which has been completed is the impressive Museum of Islamic Art on Doha's artificial island. Mosques, minarets and fortresses are spread over the cities. You see the traditional boats, which are called "dhows", in the fishing harbour of Al Wakrah and Doha. Other important towns are the industrial Mesaieed and Al Khor.
Experience - Shopping on the souq
There is one point in which Qatar has an advantage over cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai: Qatar is more authentic. The Arab lifestyle is still very native and original here. This is apparent from the typical markets, called "souqs". The greatest and most beautiful souq is Souq Waqif in Doha. This labyrinth in the heart of the capital leaves nothing to be desired. Spices, Arab carpets, shishas, elegant shoes, pearl jewellery and oriental musical instruments - the souq is a place of haggling and ideally suited for a shopping tour. There is no point in looking for price tags or firm offers. Sellers and customers haggle until an agreement is reached. To gather strength, visitors can taste the culinary specialities which are offered by the numerous stalls. A good way of ending the day is with a hookah (water pipe) and a pot of coffee.
Activities - Pearl diving and desert safaris
Several hotel beaches have already been well-developed. Holidaymakers can go jetskiing, surfing, parasailing and water skiing here. Bathing is also possible at some of these beaches. However, the seawater does not really offer refreshment with a water temperature of 30 °C in summer. Visitors have to beware of jellyfish. Divers can go on an exciting adventure. They have the opportunity to become pearl divers and search for the small valuable objects in selected areas. The desert country made a virtue out of necessity by transforming great sand dunes into exciting pistes for sand skiing and sledding. The deserted beaches and dunes can also be explored by dune buggy or quad. Particularly venturesome travellers set off on a trip into the desert and take part in a real desert safari with an overnight stay in a desert camp.
The Qatari aim to become one of the most modern and attractive travel destinations on earth by finishing the ambitious construction project "Vision 2030". Up to that point, the country will develop steadily. The start has been made and the first tourists already enjoy the attractions offered by the emirate. Due to the current political situation in the Arab countries, travellers should inform themselves on the current security situation before setting on their journey.
The endless vastness of the desert and the deserted beaches are perfectly suited for adventurers. In addition, Qatar is the ideal destination for travellers who want to experience the original oriental atmosphere of the Arab world.