Places of Interest and Tourist Attractions in Qatar
Information on the main tourist attractions, places of interest and sights to see in Qatar...
Souq Waqif used to be the Bedouin’s weekend trading area. It is now the only traditional souq, or standing market, in the gulf. Its maze of narrow streets offers traditional architecture, arts and handicrafts. Visitors can shop for a diverse range of goods including spices, perfumes, dried fruits and nuts, honey, clothing, tools, garden equipment, pots and incense. Traditional Bedouin weaving, handicrafts, wooden bridal chests and paintings and pictures by local artists can also be found. The souq is located behind the Corniche, off Grand Hamed Street in Doha.
The ancient village of Al-Zubarah is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the gulf. It is 2 Km from the Al-Zubarah fort in the northwest of Qatar, 107 Km from Doha. The buildings were made using a traditional Qatari technique of mixing coral and limestone with a mud mortar, which is then topped with a gypsum based plaster. The plaster was often decorated with geometric patterns and offered the buildings protection from wind and rain. There are two excavated sites, and digging continues in one. Artefacts are displayed in the Al-Zubarah fort.
The site is always open and there is no admission fee; a four wheel drive vehicle and a GPS are recommended.
There is also a local museum at the Al-Zubarah fort. It presents a history of the town and has a range of exhibits including coins, pottery, porcelain, jewellery and pictures of the excavations. The fort itself is a good example of a Qatari fort and building techniques. The fort is free to enter and is open daily from 08:00 until 18:00; it is closed on Friday mornings.
Traditional Fishing Villages
There are several small fishing villages in northwest Qatar which offer visitors a glimpse of traditional life in the state before the discovery of oil. The three abandoned villages Al-Areesh, Al-Khuwair and Al-Jemail paint a vivid picture of the hardships of life for people dependent on fishing on the coasts. Each village has a mosque at its centre with small fisherman’s houses surrounding it. A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended for visiting the villages.
Al Jassassiya is in northwest Qatar. It is home to the best preserved and most spectacular petroglyphs in the state. There are carvings of geometric shapes, animals and ships in the outcrops of fossil sand dunes, or jebels. Many of the carvings are similar to those found in the temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. The area also has ruined dwellings and remains of pottery from the 15th century.
There are a number of forts worth visiting in Qatar:
- The Al Shagab Fort is typical of those built between the 17th and 19th centuries; it is rectangular with four towers. It is in the northwest of the country, 110 Km from Doha. Two kilometres from the Al Shagab fort is the Al Rekaya Fort, which was built during the same period
- Al Koot Fort in Doha was built in 1927 to protect Souq Waqif from thieves. Visits are by appointment only; visits can be arranged by telephoning 4442 4143
- The Barzan towers offer spectacular views out to sea. The towers have been used to watch for approaching ships, keep watch over pearl divers and as an observatory. The towers are in Umm Slal Mohammed, 20 Km north of Doha and can be visited 24 hours a day
- The Umm Slal Mohammed Fort was the winter time home of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani and his brother, Sheikh Abdullah. Extensive renovations have been done on both the house and tower which was originally built at the end of the 19th century
- The Zekreet Fort, close to Dukhan on Qatar’s west coast, is located on a sandy beach near to many prehistoric sites. There are also the remains of many old settlements. The fort is free to enter and is always open
- The Al Wajba Fort is the oldest in the country and was the site of a famous battle; in 1893 Qatari forces defeated the Ottomans
There are a number of nature reserves in Qatar which are popular with wildlife enthusiasts. Al Reem, the northwest region of Qatar is a good place to spot oryx and Arabian gazelles. Umm Tais, on Qatar’s northeastern tip, is a protected nature reserve of small islets, sand bars, mangrove forests and beaches. It is home to both marine and bird life and has and a turtle nesting beach.
Khor Al Adaid is also known as the Inland Sea. It is 80 Km south of Doha and is a geologically unique area of sand dunes and a tidal lake that leads to the sea. It is considered to be the most spectacular landscape in Qatar and is popular with tourists. The lake has shores in both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Only experienced four wheel drivers should attempt to reach the area; there are a number of tour operators who organise trips to the Inland Sea. The area is popular for camping, barbecues, camel riding and sand skiing.
The stretch of coast at Al Thakhira is popular with ornithologists. It is an area of salt flats and mangroves which can be tricky to navigate. A four wheel drive vehicle is needed and visitors should stick to well defined tracks as much of the area becomes quicksand when it is wet.
The sandy coastline of Qatar is home to numerous beaches. Many are popular with water sports enthusiasts. Some of the most popular beaches include:
- Al Ghariya, 80 Km north of Doha, has both a resort and a sandy beach with shallow water
- Dukhan is home to lots of sandy beaches
- Fuwairit Beach, 80 Km North of Doha, is a fine sandy bay popular for picnics
- Ras Abrouq, or Bir Zekreet, is at the very tip of the peninsular northeast of Dukhan. It is a favourite spot with campers
- Sealine Beach Resort just south of Mesaieed is a resort which is also open to day visitors. Dune buggies can be hired and there are water sports facilities on the beach
- Umm Bab or Palm Tree Beach is 90 Km west of Doha and a popular place to enjoy the coast
There are a number of mosques in the state that are popular with visitors:
- The Simaisma mosque dates back to 1938. The mosque is generally open from sunrise until late afternoon; visitors should refrain from entering the mosque or taking pictures during prayers
- The Abu Manaratain mosque is noticeable because of the huge tree that looms over it. It is in Al-Wakra, one of Qatar’s oldest cities. Visitors are not allowed inside the mosque
There are a number of islands worth visiting. Ishat Island off the southeast of Qatar is made up of three small islets. Shra’o Island is a further 48 Km offshore and can be reached in three hours by speedboat from Doha. It has a fringed reef and a beach that is used by turtles to lay their eggs. It is also home to many seabirds.
Haloul Island is popular with scuba divers who visit to explore the area’s coral reefs, which are home to many beautiful fish. The waters around the island are excellent for fishing. Al-Saflia Island is a tiny island which is a 15 minute boat ride from Doha. It is a popular tourist resort.