Beyond its futuristic skyscrapers and modern, Islamic-inspired architecture, Qatar is a treasure trove of heritage worth exploring. For a glimpse into the Arabian country’s deep cultural roots, look no further than its colorful souqs, the UNESCO-recognized Inland sea at Khor al Adaid, or the Qatar National Library.
Bookmark this guide for your next visit:
1. Admire the scenic beauty of the Inland Sea
Shallow and clear waters meet golden sands at the Inland Sea at Khor al Adaid—one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders. Located 60 kilometers from Doha in the south-eastern corner of the country, the UNESCO-recognized natural reserve has its own ecosystem and is one of the few places in the world where the sea flows deep into the heart of the desert. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by a four-wheel-drive across the rolling dunes.
Nature enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the Inland Sea offers unique fauna, including several species that are internationally rare and/or endangered, such as Hawksbill turtles and Dugongs. Visitors can also spot certain species of birds that are of national and regional importance, such as the long-distance migrant waterfowl winter and Arabian gazelles.
2. Wander down the alleys of Souq Waqif
Don’t worry about getting lost as you explore the labyrinth alleys of Souq Waqif—treasures await at every turn. Travelers can expect a maze-like bazaar that spans a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies such as fresh dates and nuts, to perfumes, ornate jewelry, clothing, handicrafts, and souvenirs. The name of Souq Waqif translates to the “standing market”, and it is indeed the best way to savor Qatar’s commerce, architecture, and culture.
Traditional music, art, and cultural shows add a lively ambient to the area, which also houses a comprehensive visitor centre. Relax and soak up the atmosphere at the many restaurants and cafes serving authentic Qatari food and regional dishes and treats from Asia and North Africa. The souq is also home to a number of art galleries and a traditional falconry market.
The best way to experience the lively souq is to book a stay in the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels— a collection of six luxurious hotels and full-service residences steeped in hospitality.
3. Learn about Qatari culture at the modern Qatar National Library
Located in the heart of Education City—a sprawling campus housing multiple educational and research institutes, Qatar National Library is a state-of-the-art building. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the architecture resembles two pieces of paper that are pulled apart and folded diagonally at the corners to create a shell-like structure, enclosing the open-plan interior.
The vast main hall reveals to visitors all that the library has to offer, and the bookshelves themselves are an integral part of the building, rising out of the floor and highlighting the value of books in Qatari culture. A blend of classical materials, like marble, and modern materials, such as stainless steel, combine to emphasize the progression of knowledge from the past to the present. The library is open to the public, and all exhibitions are free of charge, while a restaurant and café offer a wide range of refreshments.
4. Explore public art installations by international artists
If you’re an art lover, you’re in luck. In Qatar, the sheer collection of public art installations by leading international artists is testament to the country’s commitment to cultural excellence. Look out for The Challenge 2015 at the Lusail Multi-Purpose Sports Hall by Ahmed El Bahrani—a series of bronze sculptures that depict a number of larger-than-life hands reaching for the sky, as well as the monumental Smoke sculpture near the entrance of the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The little ones will love the Lamp Bear at Hamad International Airport, by Urs Fischer. Humorous and comforting at once, the installation is a reminder of home, in the midst of one’s travels.
Find out more here.
This article was brought to you in partnership with Qatar National Tourism Council.