Top events in Qatar

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...

December
11

A weeklong set of events, competitions, festival, and conferences that connect the youth of Qatar together in a celebration of the country’s...

December
18

A festival honouring Sheikh Jassem bin Mohammed bin Thani, considered the father of the country. The day is a national bank holiday, ending with...

Doha at night
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Doha at night

© Creative Commons / TheRainbowRaider

Qatar Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

11,437 sq km (4,416 sq miles).

Population

2 million (2013).

Population density

178.6 per sq km.

Capital

Doha.

Government

Emirate since 1971. Gained independence from the UK in 1971.

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.  Vast natural gas and oil resources have brought vast wealth to the Qatari population, and the country is developing at breakneck speed, with everything from universities to shopping malls, five-star hotels and football stadia – in preparation for the 2022 World Cup – are springing up among the desert scenery.

Qatar is pretty much a city-state at present; 50% of the country’s population live in and around the capital and most other towns are Qatari Oil compounds; strange, quasi-communities built for foreign workers.  There are stretches of beautiful beach on the western coast, in places like Dukhan, and in the south of the country the spectacular dunes of Khor al-Adaid add a little natural beauty to the manmade charms of the city.

In spite of the astonishing wealth, Qatar remains a deeply traditional country – and it is this dichotomy that makes it such a fascinating place.  On the surface, Doha looks like a little sister to Dubai; gleaming international hotels, vast malls and man-made sandy beaches.  But Qatari culture has far more in common with its neighbour across the border, Saudi Arabia.  International hotel bars may serve alcohol, but no Qatari women are allowed to enter them.  Falconry and camel-racing are still the pastimes of choice for many Qataris – although shopping sprees in Chanel and Dior probably run a close third.

Traditional it may be, but the Qatari Emir is also a moderniser; the country is set to get its first elections in the autumn of 2013, and along with the iconic Museum of Islamic Art, the Katara Cultural Village and MATHAF – the city’s Museum of Modern Art – are ensuring that Qatar has more in the way of culture than some of its Emirate neighbours.

Qatar is the ultimate land of have and have-nots.  Wealthy Qataris drive around in the latest 4x4s, spending entire days in shopping malls buying Western designer labels, while vast armies of immigrant workers live six to a room to build the glittering skyscrapers and work in poorly-paid roles as staff to expat workers and Qataris.  Like Dubai, it’s a melting pot of races and communities – all drawn by the lure of seemingly infinite money, and the chance for a better standard of living.  How many of those who come to Qatar actually get to live their dreams is another question altogether.  Vexed, contradictory, hypocritical and challenging, Qatar is never less than fascinating.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 30 October 2014

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.

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

There is an underlying threat from terrorism.

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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