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Qatar travel guide

About Qatar

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. The country does also have its share of natural beauty. Gorgeous beaches line the western coast in places like Dukhan and the spectacular Khor al-Adaid (Inland Sea) in the south complement the country's many 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. However, in the last few years, under Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar has rapidly pursued liberal globalisation. With more rights for women, massive humanitarian investment and safe haven for political and religious exiles during the Arab Spring, Qatar is attempting to distance itself from its far more religiously conservative neighbours.

While it is in the process of liberalisation, Qatar has not lost sight of its deeply ingrained religious and cultural heritage: alcohol is only served in hotel bars and restaurants; work calendars are very much decided by religious commitments such as Ramadan; traditional sports such as falconry and camel-racing remain popular pastimes. Indeed, much like the geometrically patterned Islamic Art found all over the country, Qatar is a complex, yet beautiful country, steeped in its traditional history.

Key facts

Area:

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

Population:

2,291,368 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

197.4 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 Khalid ibn Khalifa ibn Abdul Aziz Al Thani since 2020.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

Baggage Rules

Flights to the USA from Turkey do not allow any electronic devices larger than a smartphone in carry-on baggage. These restrictions prohibit any laptops, tablets, electronic game units and e-readers larger than a smartphone. All electronic items of this size should be carried in hold luggage. For more information visit the Department of Homeland Security website. 

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