The following articles are provided byQatar Tourism Authority

See the best of Qatar on a short city break

How to make the most of a short visit

The falcon souq at Souq Waqif
The falcon souq at Souq Waqif

Despite the rapid growth in the number of UK tour operators adding Qatar to their portfolio of holiday packages, the reality remains that independent travellers make up a substantial proportion of British citizens visiting or passing through Doha – and, indeed, other major Middle Eastern centres.



The latter could be business travellers – including those combining several Gulf destinations in a single trip – delegates taking part in Qatar’s busy calendar of conferences and exhibitions, and visitors attracted by the country’s sporting and cultural events. Likewise, the remarkable success of Qatar Airways in transforming Doha into a major stopover and transit point, means there’s a vast pool of potential visitors who may be curious as to what the destination offers.



If you’re among them, why not extend your business trip or stopover for a couple of extra days to find out? Two important points to note: first, the country is so compact (about the area of Yorkshire) that every part of it can be explored within a day’s travel from the capital and, second, Qatar’s leading domestic tour operators have put together some great packages to maximise the visitor experience and minimise the hassle.



Of course, Doha itself, as the main population centre and only major city, has the biggest concentration of Qatar’s top tourist highlights. These include a number of “must see” attractions (see sidebar). For visitors with limited time there are organised half-day, full-day and special-interest tours that cover these and other main sights. Also available are “hop-on, hop-off” double-decker tours operated throughout the day by Doha Bus.



Do take the time to absorb the ambience. Souq Waqif, in particular, has plenty of interesting byways and hidden corners, including the falcon souq, a market devoted to these magnificent birds and all things to do with falconry.



Besides the main showpiece attractions, Doha offers a treasure trove of sights and architectural curiosities, ranging from the spiral tower of Al Fanar Islamic Centre, Al Koot Fort and traditional mosques to the ultra-modern skyscrapers of the central business district.



When you’ve finished exploring, why not experience one or more of the city’s fabulous array of shopping malls? These air-conditioned palaces bring together the world’s top-brand outlets with myriad other shops, cafés and entertainment facilities in surroundings that exude chic elegance.



Doha’s restaurant offerings cover every type of cuisine imaginable, from Arabic and Middle Eastern to French, Italian, Southern Asian, Thai, Chinese - the list goes on. Top chefs with local outlets include Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and many more.



Outside the capital, no visit to Qatar would be complete without experiencing an off-road desert safari by 4x4, combining the excitement of “dune bashing” with a visit to the magnificent “Inland Sea” and enjoying a dramatic desert sunset.



Given the harsh, arid conditions of the country’s desert interior, Qataris have traditionally looked outward to the sea, where fishing, pearl diving and dhow trading could support life.



This seafaring tradition lives on today. Wooden dhows, largely unchanged in design over the years, still ply Qatar’s waters. Sightseeing, watersports and cruises, including a meal, can be arranged through local tour operators. Sunset voyages, offering a panoramic vista of Doha’s beautifully lit skyline, are especially recommended.



For visitors with an interest in history, a trip to the Unesco World Heritage site at Al Zubarah is a special experience, the imposing fort evoking echoes of a more turbulent period in Qatar’s past, when strong defences were needed to guard against marauding neighbours. Likewise, the ruins of Al Zubarah bring to mind the transitory tides of history in the fate that befell what was once one of the Gulf’s leading ports with trading links across the Indian Ocean.



For visitors more interested in nature, the Al Thakhira mangroves, lying just north of the town of Al Khor, are a large expanse of vegetation notable for attracting resident and migratory birdlife. A great way to explore the area is by kayak, available from several tour operators and specialist companies.



Qatar’s west coast offers plenty of interest. The area around Zikrit and the isolated Ras Abrouq peninsula is noted for its unspoiled beaches, wild-deer reserve and haunting lunar-like landscape of limestone rock formations sculpted by the wind.



For visitors seeking outdoor action, Qatar’s climate, abundant marine life and crystal-clear waters make it a perfect destination for watersport enthusiasts. Fishing trips can be arranged and sailing, waterskiing, canoeing, jet skiing and windsurfing are all available through beach clubs, tour companies and hotels. Dive sites are easily accessible and include wreck, deepwater and reef dives.



As any golf fan will know, Qatar has a fine golf course. The annual Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is always one of the first events of the year on the European PGA tour and is televised around the world. It is played at the Doha Golf Club, which is open to visiting golfers.



A desert safari in 4x4s
A desert safari in 4x4s
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Al Zubarah Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site
Al Zubarah Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site
The Pearl-Qatar
The Pearl-Qatar
Sand dunes
Sand dunes
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