The barren peninsula of Qatar extends into the Persian Gulf, bordered on the landward end by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Its area may be very small, but the independent emirate is exceedingly wealthy, with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, thanks to its oil and gas resources.
For most of the 20th century Qatar was a British protectorate, gaining independence in 1971, after which it became embroiled in territorial disputes with its neighbours and suffered civil strife, with the Emir being ousted by his son in a coup.
In 1989 the country started issuing tourist visas, heralding a new era of opening its doors to visitors. Tourism, despite the establishment of glitzy hotels, has still to take off in a big way, hampered as it is by the risky security situation in the Middle East. The perception still is that Qatar labours under a high threat of indiscriminate terrorist attacks against western visitors. However, with the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar, the country is in the process of overhauling these perceptions, as it prepares to invigorate its tourist infrastructure and begin to welcome foreign visitors on a mass scale.
Whether visiting Qatar for business or pleasure, most travellers use the capital Doha as their base. Formerly a quaint and busy pearl fishing village, Doha is today one of the most important cities, and a major trading centre, in the Middle East. It has a large British and American expatriate population (the Al Udeid air base was headquarters for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003), which has moulded the city into an interesting blend of eastern and western culture and architecture.
Tourists tend to spend their time on the Doha Corniche, a palm-fringed public promenade that extends for four miles (7km) along the seafront, lined with five and six-star resort hotels, restaurants, shops, beaches and recreational areas. A short boat ride from the Corniche is Palm Tree Island, a great escape full of fun family amenities and a first-class seafood restaurant. Doha also has its equivalent of Disney World: the Kingdom of Aladdin Theme Park is in the West Bay area. A major attraction for visitors is shopping, whether it is in traditional markets ( souqs) or the plethora of massive ultra-modern malls that fill the city centre.
Those wanting to explore outside the city can undertake excursions to interesting towns, fishing villages, beautiful beaches, camel races, luxury resorts and the Almaha Sanctuary at Shahaniya, where the near-extinct Arabian Oryx is being protected. The Oryx is the origin of the legend of the unicorn, and is Qatar's national symbol, flying high on the tails of Qatar Airways jetliners.
Whether it is learning to haggle at the souqs, fine-tuning your dune driving skills, relaxing on the beach or marvelling at the wonders of the Arabian world in one of its cities' museums, Qatar has something on offer for every traveller. Qatar is a shopper's dream, while business travellers will find it equally exciting as Doha is fast making its mark as a regional business hub. With a great selection of amusement parks and the Qatar Zoo, kids will marvel at the many wonders Qatar has to offer. Qatar is the perfect destination for travellers who enjoy their creature-comforts but also crave adventure and some excitement during their travels. A trip to Qatar offers travellers relaxing beaches, world-class shopping, exotic markets and endless vistas of gorgeous, shimmering dunes.
The official currency is the Qatari Riyal (QAR), which divides
into 100 dirhams. The Riyal exchange rate is pegged to the US
Dollar at QR 3.65. Money and travellers cheques can be exchanged at
banks, the airport and exchange dealers. To avoid additional
charges it is best to take travellers cheques in US Dollars or
Pounds Sterling. The main bank branches are on Grand Hamad Street
in Doha. Banks are open Saturday to Thursday 8am to 1pm and some
are open into the evening. ATMs are available on the main streets
of the cities and towns, at banks and in shopping malls and most
shops, hotels and restaurants accept international credit
|QAR 1 =||US$ 0.27||Â£ 0.18||C$ 0.28||A$ 0.27||R 2.32||EUR 0.22||NZ$ 0.35|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
No vaccinations are a health requirement for entry to Qatar, but it is recommended that visitors be up to date with routine vaccinations. Modern medical care and medicine is available in Doha. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for medical services, and treatment is expensive; it is advisable for travellers to hold comprehensive medical insurance. Traveller's diarrhoea is a risk, therefore visitors should drink bottled water and avoid under-cooked food and unwashed fruit and vegetables, particularly outside of the hotels and resorts.
Visitors should have tickets and documents for return or onward travel and sufficient funds to cover their stay. If on a tourist visa, visitors should have proof of confirmed hotel reservation and a minimum of USD 1,400 or a major credit card. Those without diplomatic representation in Qatar require passports valid for at least six months upon arrival. If holding a visa for Oman an additional visa for Qatar is not required. As of 1 May 2010 Qatar has decided to remove visas on arrival for the citizens of 33 countries so be sure to confirm the current status of your country. All visitors staying in Qatar for more than one month need to obtain a Residence Permit after arrival. The government of Qatar does not accept temporary passports. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
Qatar Tourism Authority, Doha: +974 4441 1555 or www.qatartourism.com
Foreign Embassies in Qatar
Doha is the beautiful capital of Qatar, located on the Persian Gulf and home to the majority of the country's population. In 2006 the city hosted the world's largest Asian Games yet, and has since continued to thrive. Doha has a very laid-back atmosphere and is a good base from which to explore the rest of the country. This destination is also renown for being safe and clean. As a cultural and commercial centre, the city offers plenty of things to see and do including shopping and dining, or simply relaxing on its gorgeous coast or bay area. The Government House is one of the most prominent landmarks and the National Museum, housed in a splendid Arabian palace, was opened in 1975. Doha's modern seaport, airport and telephone links make it very accessible to visitors, supported by a strong economical base derived from petroleum exports and shrimp processing, as well as finance and administration businesses. Hotels are being refurbished across the city, making this a fantastic destination for travellers.
With the awarding of the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar, Doha is sure to become even more of a tourist haven, as infrastructure is improved and new tourist attractions are established.
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