Breaking Travel News spotlight on: Qatar
With just months to go until kick-off in November, Qatar is putting the finishing touches to its refreshed tourism offering.
With more than one million visitors set to visit the leading Middle East destination for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, fans should rest assured that incredible experiences, local culture, food and flavours are all available at fantastic value for money – or even for free.
Chief operating officer of Qatar Tourism, Berthold Trenkel, told Breaking Travel News: “Qatar is easy and exciting to explore without breaking the bank.
“All visitors will find a raft of inexpensive restaurants, transport options, activities, and lots of attractions to enjoy either for free or at great value.
“Qatar is one of the safest destinations in the world, centred around the warm hospitality characteristic of the local culture.”
While the destination may have a reputation for being slightly on the pricey side, there are in fact many things to do for free.
For example, Qatar has numerous lush green parks – the perfect place for a family stroll and a picnic.
Aspire Park has lakes, play areas and views of the 300-metre Torch Tower.
Al Bidda Park stretches down the coastline and has many sporting activities on offer, along with rentable barbecue spaces.
Adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art is MIA Park with the best vantage point of the Doha skyline.
The small but stunning Onaiza Park has a pretty garden area and winding walking track.
Certainly, then, plenty to be going on with for football fans attending with their families.
Those willing to venture one hour 20 mins outside Doha should seek out Fuwairit beach for its powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters.
The location is a hotspot for kitesurfers and home to a hatching site for the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles.
Closer to the capital is Sealine beach, in the desert dunes of the south, or Katara beach, inside Katara Cultural Village within Doha itself.
For a list of the top public beaches visit the official website.
Katara Cultural Village has a stunning beach promenade, an impressive open-air amphitheatre and network of exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities.
Souq Waqif is the country’s bustling traditional marketplace, offering souvenirs, spices, and numerous budget-friendly food options.
The newly developed Msheireb & Education City districts each provide a free tram service to tour the wonderous avant-garde architecture for a dose of how the past meets the present in Qatari design and culture.
The latter also houses the Qatar National Library with its intriguing paper plane design, while Msheireb has museums that celebrate the history of four heritage houses.
In Qatar’s souqs, or markets, a friendly bit of haggling is expected to find the right price for both parties.
The Souq Waqif, in the oldest part of Doha, offers numerous shops and stalls.
Popular items for sale include pashmina shawls and scarves, oud wood or oil, dates and spices, intricate wooden boxes, Dalla Arabian pots for coffee and modern jewellery at the suitably entitled Gold Souq.
Visitors can also haggle when booking a cruise aboard a traditional wooden dhow boat, which are lined up along the Corniche and provide a relaxing way to watch the sunset.
Qatar offers a wide range of local and international cuisine and being on a budget doesn’t mean skimping on quality and flavour.
Shay Al Shomous is a restaurant run by a renowned Qatari woman called Shams Al Qassabi, who was the first businesswoman to open a shop in Souq Waqif.
All menu items are priced under US$7, so it is easy to sample a large assortment of authentic Qatari food.
Chapati & Karak is an establishment in Katara Cultural Village, serving local tea for less than US$2.
This sweet karak tea is an Indian drink now deeply rooted in Qatari culture.
In the heart of city is Turkey Central, frequented by both locals and expats alike for its mouth-watering menu, generous prices and prompt service.
The menu options start from US$1 upwards, with plates big enough for two to share.
In Doha, one of the easiest ways to get around is the new metro system.
The state-of-the-art network features 100 km/h trains, driverless carriages and a Gold Class for premium passengers.
A journey costs as little as 2 QAR for a one-way trip (US$0.55), after a reusable travel card has been purchased for 10 QAR (US$ 2.75).
Stops on the red line include Katara, Doha’s go-to destination for arts, culture, and cuisine; West Bay, the city’s skyscraper-laden central district; Msheireb, the downtown sustainable revival of the old commercial district with a fleet of al fresco dining options; and HIA at the end of the line.
The gold line takes passengers to the iconic National Museum of Qatar and Souq Waqif’s bustling marketplace.
It then ventures on to Aspire Zone, a large green area featuring parks, the Khalifa International Stadium, the 300m-tall the Torch Doha, Villaggio Mall and the new 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum – displaying objects such as Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, Pelé’s World Cup winning football boots and Michael Schumacher’s title winning F1 car from 2000.
Finally, the green line stretches from the centre of Doha out to Education City, the country’s hub for learning and education, with university campuses, parks, the stunning Education City Mosque and the Qatar National Library.
The line then extends out to the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium and Mall of Qatar.
Accompanying the Doha Metro is a series of tram services that operate in specific city districts.
Both the Education City Tram and Msheireb Tram offer a convenient free-of-charge service that circle around their respective areas.
Lusail Tram, which launched at the start of 2022, provides an extensive route around Lusail – Qatar’s sustainable city of the future and the heart of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Sights include Lusail Stadium (which will host the tournament’s final) and Place Vendôme – a giant new luxury shopping mall with a central canal, dancing water fountains, and more than 500 high-end and mid-range stores.
Cycling in Qatar has never been easier, with new tracks constantly opening as the government increases the emphasis on healthy and active lifestyles.
Most notable of all the routes is the Olympic Cycling Track, which opened in 2020.
At 33 kilometres, this track holds the Guinness World Record for the longest continuous cycle path in the world.
Five bridges and nearly 30 underpasses facilitate non-stop riding.
Next while the Lusail International Circuit usually plays host to F1 cars and MotoGP bikes, it also opens its five-kilometre track to cyclists, runners, walkers and skaters for three hours of free training every Wednesday evening.
Bicycles can be hired at the track for a small fee.
For something a little less intense, cyclists can visit Al Bidda Park, which offers five kilometres of smooth riding surrounded by lush natural greenery.
Another five-kilometre track lies in Aspire Zone Park, where special helmets are provided and a Learn to Ride initiative encourages children to hop onto two wheels.
A walk around Doha’s Corniche and downtown area is arguably the best way for first-time visitors to see and soak up Qatari culture in a short time.
Starting at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), visitors should stroll around the large park outside the museum, to the nearly 25 metres high ‘7’ sculpture by the acclaimed American artist Richard Serra.
His tallest ever creation, ‘7’ is made from seven steel plates in reference to the significance of the number in Islamic culture.
Nearby MIA Park is Doha Harbour along the corniche, featuring hundreds of dhows.
Dhows are traditional wooden boats, and they were the backbone of Qatar’s economy when pearl diving was the country’s main industry.
After the corniche it’s easy to spend a couple of hours immersed in the ambiance of the Souq Waqif, Qatar’s traditional marketplace.
Originally a weekend market for Bedouins, the souq underwent a complete restoration in in the mid noughties and offers a maze of narrow alleyways lined with small shops, cafes and restaurants.
Other transport options include a comprehensive bus service, taxis and ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Careem.
A typical (non-surge) 30-minute journey on Uber usually comes to no more than US$7.
When it comes to accommodation, guests are spoilt for choice.
Four Points by Sheraton Doha has 120 spacious rooms or suites available, while the hotel sits right across a metro station and is just a short walk from Msheireb Downtown Doha.
Holiday Inn Doha – The Business Park is right in the centre of the bustling financial district – perfect for a ‘bleisure’ break.
It’s a 15-minute drive from Hamad International Airport and a few minutes away from top attractions including Souq Waqif, Museum of Islamic Art and National Museum of Qatar.
Recognised as offering the World’s Leading Hotel Dining & Entertainment Experience by voters at the World Travel Awards, La Cigale is a classy option for the high-end traveller.
Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel - honoured as Qatar’s Leading Conference Hotel - is a great choice for anybody looking to combine a little business with the sporting extravaganza, while Fraser Suites Doha - recognised as Qatar’s Leading Serviced Apartments - is perfect for travellers wishing to spend a little longer in the Qatari capital.
Qatar has incredible stopover packages available from just US$14 per night.
The deals, launched at the end of last year by Qatar Airways and Discover Qatar, and supported by Qatar Tourism, include a range of leading four-and five-star hotels, offering affordable luxury to suit all budgets.
For more information on the stopover visit the website.
For the more adventure-minded, there are also lots of great options in Qatar.
Combining surfing, wakeboarding and windsurfing, kitesurfing is a popular sport in Qatar and a thrilling way to discover the country’s incredible coastline and sandy beaches.
Adventure-seekers can visit Fuwairit, one of Qatar’s most popular beaches, to try their hand at kitesurfing.
Explore the vast desert of Qatar with an electrifying dune bashing desert safari.
Thrill-seekers will soar across desert dunes for an unforgettable experience.
The desert safari also includes a trip to the famous Inland Sea, one of the few places in the world where the sea meets the desert.
For adrenaline junkies, skydiving is one of the most thrilling ways to experience Qatar.
Soak up the picturesque views from 12,000 feet and at 120mph, where Skydive Qatar’s dropzone location offers some of the best and most consistent weather for skydives – the perfect setting for new and experienced jumpers alike.
Finally, take a trip to the Pearl-Qatar to the next level with a jet ski adventure over the Arabian waters.
The Pearl Qatar is a huge man-made island with a nod to Qatar’s pearling history, featuring Mediterranean-style yacht-lined marinas and residential towers.
This oceanside location offers stunning views against the city’s majestic backdrop and visitors can hit the open waters on a jet ski or even try their hand at water-skiing.
Trenkel added: “Visitors don’t need a car to explore Doha, as all the top attractions are located accessibly along our metro and tram network.
“To see the sights stress-free, it’s also surprisingly simple to stroll around the city.
“For example, our vibrant café-lined downtown district of Msheireb connects, via a convenient passage, to the historical Souq Waqif; a walk between both really brings to life Qatar’s fusion of ancient heritage and modern development – a theme prevalent across the country’s society, culture and architecture.”
Qatar is a peninsula surrounded by the Arabian Gulf in the heart of the Middle East, with 80 per cent of the earth’s population within a six-hour flight.
The country welcomes all travellers, and guests from over 95 countries can enter visa-free.
Qatar has an incredible variety of easily accessible tourist attractions, a plethora of fauna and flora including Whale Sharks and the majestic national animal the Arabian Oryx, and most experiences are a unique combination of cultural authenticity and modernity.
From iconic museums to high-rise restaurants, from thrilling desert adventures to world-famous events including none other than the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, there is something for all types of travellers and budgets.
Visit the official tourism website to find out more.
Images: Qatar Tourism