Qatar is best known for its skyscrapers and malls, and for being a center of commerce and finance. While it's true that no trip to Qatar would be complete without stopping to marvel at the skyline and the incredible futuristic architecture, there's more to life than tall buildings. Qatar has its own art, nature, and history. Take a moment to head off the beaten track and see the side of Qatar that the locals wished more people would stop to appreciate.
Nowhere is the juxtaposition of nature and architecture more apparent in Qatar than the Doah Corniche. On one side you have Corniche Street, home to numerous skyscrapers and modern developments. On the other, the picturesque waters of Doha Bay. It's a stark contrast, the towering glass and steel skyscrapers playing off against the clear open waters. Follow the Corniche to reach Rumaila Park, a quiet respite in the city.
The 88 hectares of Aspire Park serves as a sanctuary for local families and tourists alike. The park is home to several rare species of trees and is a picturesque spot with fountains, picnic areas, and playgrounds. The park is host to the only lake in the whole of Qatar, and both locals and visitors alike flock there to escape the hustle and bustle of Doha.
Learning about new cultures is an important part of travel. The National Museum of Qatar is a vast museum, with five halls each focused on a particular part of Qatari history. The Lake and the Botanical Garden display local flora and fauna, while the Maritime Museum, the Old Governor's Palace and the Modern Palace cover the human history of the state.
Take a trip back in time with a visit to the Al Zubarah Fort. This historic fort looks out over the ruins of a once vibrant pearling and trading town. The remarkably well-preserved ruins tell the story of a time at the beginning of the rise of the Gulf states. Visitors have the chance to learn about the area, it's history and the invaluable work that archaeologists are doing to preserve them.
A true national treasure, this government-built library is housed in a stunning building that is a testament to modern architecture. The wealth of paper books, e-books, and journals contained within makes this an amazing collection of human knowledge. Bookworms will love exploring the collections, and the coffee shop inside is a good place to spend an evening on a humid day.
Head away from the city and the water's edge and you will find desert for miles. Taking a night-time desert safari lets you enjoy the eerie calm of the sand dunes, take in the expansive views, and even ride a camel in the cool of the night. Look out over the vast desert, sand dunes reaching out as far as the eye can see, merging into the clear, starlit sky on the horizon.
Enjoy a traditional spectacle with a modern twist at the Al Shahaniya race track. Camel races have been popular in Qatar throughout history. Even as recently as the turn of the century, child jockeys were used because the weight of the rider has a big impact on the speed of the camel. Human jockeys are now banned, and the race organizers use robot jockeys—remote-controlled 'riders' with whips, instead. This incredible blend of tradition and technology is a reminder of how important camels are in Qatari culture.
Soak up the atmosphere of the Souq Waqif markets. Browse the vast array of unique wares, including antiques, handicrafts, jewelry, ornaments and more. This bustling market area is popular with visitors and locals alike. These bustling streets feel like the world of Alladin, full of mystery and wonder. What treasures will you find in these stalls?
The Pearl and Oyster Fountain is a large and iconic monument on Corniche. The top of the oyster is approximately 16 feet high, making for an imposing sight. The view of the Doha skyline behind it makes it even more fascinating spectacle at night, as the lights make the pearl gleam and draw attention to the dancing water. This fountain offers some nice respite from the desert.
Fanar is an iconic mosque in Doha and home to the Islamic Cultural Center. The wedding-cake shaped building is home to a museum and education center. Visitors can take a tour of the mosque, take part in sermons, and explore Islam-themed exhibits that shed light on the history and culture of Qatar.