All you must learn about Qatar: ideas from an expat

I’m a 12 months into my second stretch of calling Doha dwelling. So I’ve realized a factor or two about residing within the desert state of Qatar.

After I first lived right here 20 years in the past, no person had even heard of this exceptional little nation. Right now, cruise ships hug the shoreline, and guests flock right here from across the globe. But some vacationers arrive unprepared.

Realizing some background data earlier than your go to will allow you to profit from your journey to this nation on the Arabian Peninsula. From dealing with the warmth and taking the super-modern metro to seeing superb artwork and attending to know the Qataris, listed here are my prime ideas that can allow you to get essentially the most out of your go to to Qatar.

Timing your go to to Qatar is essential

Qatar’s “season” runs from October to Might. These months are the very best time to go to, when most occasions and exhibitions happen and when the temperatures are nice sufficient to stroll round exterior.

Qatar is a desert nation, and it will get scorching. Like, actually scorching. Summer time temperatures simply attain 50ºC (122ºF) – within the shade. When you can count on every part out of your rental automotive to the shops and even some bus stops to be air conditioned, you may nonetheless get uncomfortable bouncing between them. 

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Resolve to journey – or not – throughout Ramadan

The ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, the holy month of Ramadan is when Muslims quick between dawn and sundown. Throughout Ramadan, it’s frowned upon to eat, drink, smoke and even chew gum in public throughout daytime. Whereas Qataris are tolerant of non-Muslim guests, nearly all eating places are closed through the day (lodges supply the few exceptions). Visiting Qatar throughout Ramadan means your journey plans should be extra versatile, however you’ll get the possibility to expertise festivities such because the every day sundown cannon being set off, the beautiful lantern decorations round city and the nightly iftar, the breaking of the quick after sundown that’s a joyous occasion in personal properties and eating places.

It’s respectful to decorate modestly when touring Qatar © 3yephotography / Getty Photographs

Take care to decorate appropriately

Qatar is a Muslim nation, and whereas Qataris are tolerant – particularly of holiday makers – it’s an indication of respect to decorate modestly. It’s not an issue to put on a bikini at resort seashores and swimming pools, but it surely’s respectful for women and men to cowl their shoulders and put on garments that attain to the knee when strolling round elsewhere, particularly in areas the place you’ll encounter many locals, akin to in Souq Waqif.

Hop on the Doha Metro

Whereas a lot of Doha’s focus on Souq Waqif and Msheireb is walkable within the cooler months, the best and most comfy option to get round is on the Doha Metro. This contemporary, clear and expansive system takes you to all of the busy hubs inside Doha and its environment, together with the airport and the cities of Al Wakrah and Lusail.

A man prepares Turkish coffee in burning sand at Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar, Middle East
Studying about Arab etiquette – together with the various traditions related to espresso – will add to the enjoyment of your Qatar journey © Juan Alberto Casado / Getty Photographs

Perceive the native etiquette

From avoiding consuming along with your left hand to espresso taken with cardamom and the assorted types of conventional gown, Arab tradition could be a new expertise for these from exterior the Muslim world. To study etiquette and practices instantly from Qataris, go to Embrace Doha for experiences that can educate you concerning the cultural ins and outs right here.

Don’t let preconceptions scare you away

Even earlier than they go to, many vacationers have an opinion about Qatar – but it surely’s important to reach with an open thoughts and expertise it for your self. Whereas guidelines, customs and legal guidelines may differ from the place you reside, Qatar has been altering rather a lot lately. After I returned to reside in Qatar once more after a 15-year absence, I barely acknowledged the place. An increase in worldwide guests has spurred the nation to proceed to work towards extra adjustments.

A woman shopping at night at the Souq Waqif street market in Doha, Qatar, Middle East
One of many most secure nations on the planet, Qatar gives a fantastic expertise for solo girls vacationers © urbazon / Getty Photographs

Solo feminine traveler visiting Qatar? No worries

Many contemplate Qatar the most secure nation on the planet – and as a lady residing right here, I’ve by no means felt threatened. (After all, it takes just one unhealthy expertise to vary your view on that, however the identical holds for each nation on the planet.) In Qatar, I often neglect to lock my entrance door and my automotive, and even go away my purse in my buying cart. You must use widespread sense as you’d wherever – and count on to really feel protected and welcome. 

Attempt the favourite native breakfast

Since Qatar is among the world’s richest nations, celebrity-chef eating places abound all through the capital. But vacationers visiting Qatar on a funds can nonetheless discover scrumptious low-cost meals, such because the native favourite breakfast of karak and chapati. A tea made with condensed milk, cardamon, ginger, saffron and sugar, karak is spicy in addition to candy, whereas chapati is a flatbread served often with honey or cheese (or each!). You may attempt these two staples in most simple-looking cafeterias, at meals stalls in parks or in Katara village. You’ll know the place to seek out them by the hungry locals queuing as much as order.

A falcon rests on a man’s arm on a stone balcony, Qatar
Magnificent falcons are treasured in Qatar as a key a part of the nation’s tradition © Abdelrahman M Hassanein / Getty Photographs

Study extra concerning the significance of the beloved nationwide chook

The falcon is Qatar’s nationwide chook, and they’re so revered that they’re allowed on flights and even get their very own seat. Doha has a falcon hospital in addition to a falcon market; in your go to, cease at Souq Waqif to have a more in-depth have a look at these beautiful birds. When you’re there, don’t miss the camels and thoroughbred Arabian horses which might be stabled proper within the metropolis heart. 

Qatar is an artwork hub of the Center East

Qatar is greater than luxurious buying and such prestigious sports activities occasions because the 2022 FIFA World Cup: it’s rapidly turning into a heavyweight on the Center Jap artwork scene, too. In Hamad Worldwide Airport alone, you possibly can see greater than a dozen installations by such internationally well-known artists as KAWS, Urs Fischer and Jean-Michel Othoneil. Head into the desert at Zekreet to see the gorgeous East–West / West–East by Richard Serra, or go to the large Miraculous Journey by Damien Hirst. Doha’s Museum of Islamic Artwork is world-class, whereas pockets of avenue artwork complement the capital’s high-culture choices. 

Calm down in a park

Most of Qatar’s landscapes are beige and sandy – so take a break from the desert hues at a inexperienced park in Doha. My favourite is MIA Park behind the Museum of Islamic Artwork, which bends round a bay and is stuffed with small meals vans that promote karak, chapati and different goodies. MIA Park not solely has fabulous mature bushes and grass excellent for picnicking, but additionally provides very good views throughout the skyline, with picturesque wood dhows (conventional boats) moored close by. 

Two children in sunglasses pet three sitting camels in the desert, Qatar, Middle East
Desert excursions present the last word option to encounter Qatari landscapes and tradition © BlueOrange Studio / Shutterstock

Don’t miss out on the desert

It’s straightforward to maintain busy in Doha, but you possibly can’t go away Qatar with out experiencing the desert. As you off-road over sand dunes in a 4WD automobile to, watch flamingos, camp below the clear skies of the “inland sea” of Khor Al Adaid and slide down the horseshoe-shaped Singing Dunes, you’ll uncover how the desert lies on the literal coronary heart of Qatar – and the figurative one in all its individuals. 

Get hold of Qatar’s historical past

Bedouin have lengthy lived across the Arabian deserts, however the tradition’s nomadic life-style signifies that most locations on this area don’t have any historic constructions. But Qatar has few historic surprises, such because the petroglyphs at Al Jassasiya and the Unesco-listed Al Zubarah Fort, each effectively price a go to.

Plan the place to have a drink

It’s doable to stave off the warmth with a cool beer in Qatar – however you’ll must plan forward. You can not import alcohol into Qatar from duty-free outlets or purchase something however non-alcoholic beer from the grocery retailer, nor are you allowed to drink alcohol in public locations. Alcohol is accessible in Qatar solely on licensed premises, akin to bigger lodges and resort eating places. Most lodges have very good bars, comfy beer gardens or outside eating places the place you possibly can sit again with a glass or two.