Top events in Qatar

September
22

Also known as the festival of sacrifice, Eid al-Adha follows the annual Islamic pilgrimage and commemorates the trials of the Prophet Abraham....

October
14

An important religious holiday, which falls on a different date each year. Many families slaughter a lamb, in remembrance of God’s intervention...

December
01

Film-lovers whose tastes extend beyond the latest Hollywood blockbuster will love the choice of movies on show at this five-day festival. Katara...

Hooded falcon, Qatar
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Hooded falcon, Qatar

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Qatar Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

11,586 sq km (4,473 sq miles).

Population

2.1 million (2014).

Population density

183.3 per sq km.

Capital

Doha.

Government

Emirate.

Head of state

Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani since 2013.

Electricity

240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are used.

The eyes of the world are on Qatar right now. In just forty years, this small Gulf state has been catapulted from one of the poorest countries in the region to the richest (per capita) in the world. Fuelled by oil and natural gas revenue, Qatar is developing at breakneck speed, and everything from universities to shopping malls, 5-star hotels to football stadiums (in preparation for the controversial 2022 World Cup) are springing up along the desert floor.

Modern Qatar is, for all intents and purposes, a city-state. Over half of the country’s population lives in and around the capital, Doha. Most other towns are Qatari Oil compounds – quasi-communities built for foreign workers. The country does also have its share of natural beauty. Gorgeous beaches line the western coast in places like Dukhan, and the spectacular dunes of Khor al-Adaid in the south complement the city’s many inorganic charms.

While the skyscrapers, malls and manmade beaches suggests that Doha is an understudy to Dubai, in reality Qatar remains a deeply traditional country, sharing far more in common with neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Thus, even as international hotel bars are permitted to serve alcohol, Qatari women are forbidden from entering them; and even as Qatari’s indulge in shopping sprees at Chanel or Dior, falconry and camel-racing remain popular pastimes.

Amidst this contradiction of custom and modernity exist a few notable spaces for reflection. The iconic Museum of Islamic Art, the Katara Cultural Village and the Museum of Modern Art give Qatar a cultural edge over some of its Emirate neighbours.

However, the country exemplifies the divide between haves and have-nots. Wealthy Qataris cruise around in the latest 4x4s, spending entire days in upscale shopping malls, while vast armies of immigrant workers serve as poorly paid staff or live six to a room as they build glittering skyscrapers. Paradoxical, challenging and hypocritical it may be, Qatar is never less than fascinating.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 30 August 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Around 17,500 British nationals live in Qatar, and approximately 40,000 visit annually. Most visits are trouble-free.

Although crime levels are low, female visitors should take extra care when travelling alone at night.

Only use registered taxis and don’t enter a taxi late at night unaccompanied.

Road travel

You can drive using a UK driving licence for a maximum of 7 days from the date of your arrival in the country or on an International Driving Permit for up to 6 months. After this, you will need to apply for a temporary or permanent Qatari licence. Before applying for either a temporary or permanent driving licence, you will need to get a residency permit.

Road discipline is very poor; speeds are high and minor accidents common. Qatar has very high fatality rate for road accidents. If you have an accident, stay with your vehicle. It is an offence to leave the scene of the accident, but if no one has been injured and it is safe to do so, you can move your vehicle to a safer place. You will need to get a police report for insurance purposes.

The driver and front seat passenger should wear a seat belt at all times. You must not use a mobile phone while driving. Even minor expressions of ‘road rage’ like rude gestures can attract significant penalties. Offenders may be fined, imprisoned and/or deported. You may be banned from leaving the country until your case has been resolved.  More serious cases may take up to 6 months to be heard.

Excursions to the desert can be hazardous unless in a properly equipped 4 x 4 vehicle. Always travel in convoy with other cars, take a supply of water and a mobile telephone, and leave travel plans with friends or relatives.

It is an offence in Qatar to drink and drive, and there is zero tolerance for it. Driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable by a custodial sentence of between one month and three years, a fine of QR10,000 (approx £1,700) to QR50,000 (approx £8,500), or both. Offenders may also be deported.

Sea travel

Many areas of the Gulf are highly sensitive, including near maritime boundaries and the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Gulf. Vessels entering these areas have been detained and inspected, and there have been occasional arrests. You should make careful enquiries before entering these waters or visiting ports.

Regional tensions may also affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.

Take care when travelling by Dhow, as the safety of these vessels may not be up to UK standards. Make sure life jackets are available.

Political situation

Regional developments continue to have an impact on local public opinion in the region. You should be aware of local sensitivities on these issues. You should follow news reports and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations. There is the potential for increased tension on Fridays.

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