Despite its small size, Qatar can lay a claim to being the most powerful and most developed country in the Arab World. Due to its immense economic muscle derived from its plentiful oil and natural gas reserves, Qatar has emerged over the last few decades as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. A city-state, Qatar has very much become a global city, one of the most modern in the region.
Over a hundred years old, the Souq Waqif is Qatar’s best-known market and a rare remnant of pre-modernised Qatar. One of the few parts of the city to emerge untouched by the rampant urbanisation of Doha, the Souq is one of city’s top sites and offers a valuable insight into traditional Qatari culture. As popular with travelling tourists as it is with the locals, the market has a plethora of goods available including spices and clothing. A refreshing detour from the ultra-modern city, the Souq Waqif is an essential stop on any traveller’s tour of Qatar.
Museum of Islamic Art
The city’s central museum, the Museum of Islamic Art is an immense, grandiose structure situated on a man-made island in Doha flanked by parkland. Architecturally, the museum is a unique synchronisation of modern design and Islamic influences. With free admission to the general public, the museum is a celebration of Islamic arts and culture and its extensive history. The permanent collection and rotating exhibitions draw from several different periods, regions and styles. The museum is one of the most impressive collections of Islamic artworks and artefacts in the world.
Al Zubarah Fort
Another important relic of the old Qatar, Al Zubara Fort was built in 1938 during the reign of Sheikh Abdullah bin Qassim Al Thani. Initially designed to function as a military fortress for the country’s Coast Guard, the building has been out of operation for decades since its conversion into a museum in 1980. Located a few hours a drive outside of Doha in the old town of Zubarah, the fort is one of Qatar’s most recognisable and iconic landmarks. With the city’s history often obscured by its rampant modernisation, the Fort remains an important symbol of the country’s past.
Al Thakira Mangroves
One of the lesser-known attractions in Qatar, the Al Shakira Mangroves seem incongruous in the desert state, which makes their beauty even greater a sight to behold. Located near Al Khor, a small seaside city in the island’s north, the Mangroves are a lush ecosystem of a variety of fauna and flora. It is a major spot for bird-watching enthusiasts due to its importance to migrating birds, particularly flamingos. There are a number of companies, which offer kayaking tours of the Mangroves, the best way to explore the region. An unconventional experience in Qatar that is not to be missed.
Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
A large, extensive museum comprising a complex of three buildings, the Museum was opened by its namesake Sheikh Faisal in Al Rayyan, a region bordering Doha. The Sheikh opened the museum with the intention of preserving Qatari culture in the face of the country’s rapid modernisation and westernisation. The museum draws from the Sheikh’s personal collection of artefacts, artwork and possessions, notably a number of automobiles and other vehicles. There are an estimated 15,000 artefacts within the museum, which offers an unrivalled insight into Qatari history and culture.
main image: courtesy of Visit Qatar