Ex­plore Qatar’s di­verse at­trac­tions

From camel rac­ing and desert sa­faris to top-class restau­rants and spas, there’s much to en­joy in Qatar, says Karl Cushing

Business Traveller - - LIFESTYLE CONTENTS -

At­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors has be­come some­thing of a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion for Qatar, fu­ture host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and a burst of re­cent de­vel­op­ments – such as the new Mall of Qatar – has widened the op­tions for busi­ness trav­ellers with some time to ex­plore. Doha’s im­pres­sive five-star ho­tels, mean­while, are an at­trac­tion in them­selves, sup­port­ing a vi­brant din­ing and nightlife scene (see page 80). Here are ten things to try both in the cap­i­tal and the wider area.

1 HIT THE BEACH

Recharge af­ter your busi­ness trip by catch­ing some of that year-round sun, away from the re­stric­tions of the lo­cal pub­lic beaches. Ho­tels of­fer­ing day passes for non-guests in­clude the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Doha, where tick­ets cost from QR 200 (£42) for adults on week­days. It’s a great spot to get a re­sort-style R&R ex­pe­ri­ence ei­ther by the pool or on the large beach and, once re­vived, you can try your hand at some of the wa­ter­sports avail­able.

Also of­fer­ing day ac­cess is the Grand Hy­att Doha, with its curved beach and five pools. Op­tions out­side the city in­clude Sealine Beach Club, about an hour’s drive from Doha and a good spot for ac­tiv­i­ties.

2 RE­LAX IN A SPA

Many of Doha’s high-end ho­tels are home to out­stand­ing spa fa­cil­i­ties, such as the Ba­nana Is­land Re­sort Doha by Anan­tara and Kempin­ski Marsa Malaz on the Pearl, with its Spa by Clar­ins and ham­mam by Amra skin­care. A per­sonal favourite is the Six Senses spa at Ritz-Carl­ton’s Sharq Vil­lage, the de­sign of which cre­ates a re­laxed, lo­cal at­mos­phere, with Ara­bian treat­ments of­fered along­side the likes of Thai and Swedish.

3 CRUISE THE BAY

Leave the land be­hind you and take to the wa­ter on one of the many dhow boat cruises that leave from the Cor­niche. It’s worth it for the knockout views of the Doha sky­line alone – par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive at night as you sail the bay be­neath a canopy of stars, en­joy­ing a blowout bar­be­cue buf­fet din­ner. An­other op­tion is tak­ing a gon­dola ride from Katara Vil­lage. Op­er­a­tors of­fer­ing BBQ dhow cruises in­clude Qatar In­ter­na­tional Ad­ven­tures (four hours; QR 230/£48 per per­son; qia-qatar.com).

4 PLAY A ROUND

Doha Golf Club, the only 18-hole cham­pi­onship course in the coun­try, plays host to Jan­uary’s Qatar Masters. Other fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a driv­ing range and a putting green, while novices can prac­tise their game at the on-site Qatar Golf Academy. The Ara­bic-style club­house is well worth check­ing out too. It costs from QR 300 (£63) to play 18 holes or QR 200 (£42) for nine. You can book a tee time on­line and hire equip­ment (do­hagolf­club.com).

5 HEAD IN­LAND

The In­land Sea, or Khor Al Adaid, is a UNESCO-recog­nised site and one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions out­side of Doha for tourists and lo­cals alike. Here, the sea en­croaches deep into the heart of the desert and the 86km jour­ney from Doha is a spec­ta­cle in it­self, not least the mo­ment you get your first view of the wa­ter from the crests of the dunes be­ing nav­i­gated by the driver of your 4WD ve­hi­cle.

The sea can eas­ily be ex­pe­ri­enced as part of an or­gan­ised desert sa­fari, along with ac­tiv­i­ties such as sand board­ing, quad bik­ing and moon­lit Be­douin-style bar­be­cues. Op­er­a­tors in­clude Fal­con Tours, which of­fers half-day sa­faris from QR 390 (£83) per per­son, based on a trip for two (fal­con­toursqatar.com).

6 VISIT A MU­SEUM

Lo­cated in Al Sam­riya, 42km west of Doha, the fas­ci­nat­ing dis­play of arte­facts at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qas­sim Al Thani Mu­seum is based on the per­sonal col­lec­tion of Sheikh Faisal him­self. It’s cen­tred on the four key ar­eas of Is­lamic art, lo­cal her­itage, ve­hi­cles, and coins and cur­rency, with high­lights in­clud­ing the Sheikh’s car col­lec­tion and the im­pres­sive Qatari fort it is housed in. Open Mon-Thurs 9am-4.30pm, Fri 2pm-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 9am4pm. En­try QR 15 (£3); fbq­mu­seum.org.

7 CHEER ON THE CAMELS

If you find your­self in Qatar in the win­ter months then don’t miss one of the high-en­ergy camel races held at Al Sha­haniya, 60km west of Doha. Op­er­a­tors such as Qatar In­ter­na­tional Ad­ven­tures fre­quently com­bine a be­hind-the-scenes tour of the camel rac­ing track with a visit to the Sheikh Faisal mu­seum – of­ten with a look at the Rac­ing and Eques­trian Club, where the Qatari royal sta­bles are based.

8 TOUR THE LAND­SCAPE

Fur­ther west of Al Sha­haniya lies Zikrit and the Ras Abrouq penin­sula, an area of raw, bar­ren beauty and

wind-carved lime­stone rock for­ma­tions. Other at­trac­tions in the re­gion – which is known for its ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, in­clud­ing some from the Ne­olithic era – are its se­cluded, re­mote beaches and a wild deer re­serve.

While you’re there, check out the im­pres­sive East-West/West-East sculp­ture by artist Richard Serra in the na­ture re­serve. Op­er­a­tors of­fer­ing tours of the area in­clude Dis­cover Qatar (dis­cov­erqatar.qatarair­ways.com).

9 KAYAK IN THE MAN­GROVES

For a less arid nat­u­ral wilder­ness, head to Al Thakira Man­groves, 57km from Doha, to the north of the city of Al Khor. The wa­tery green wilder­ness is a haven for bird life, in­clud­ing flamin­gos and herons, and you can ex­plore it by kayak. Com­pa­nies of­fer­ing tours in­clude Aqua Sport, which runs two op­tions from the ma­rina in Al Thakira – a man­grove ex­plo­ration tour and a man­grove and flamingo beach tour – for QR 200/£42 (aquas­port­sqatar.com).

On the jour­ney there from Doha, con­sider stop­ping off at the re­stored Al Zubarah Fort. This UNESCO World Her­itage site is sur­rounded by a 60-hectare ar­chae­o­log­i­cal park and of­fers an in­ter­est­ing glimpse into the coun­try’s past.

10 BE A SPORT

Doha’s state-of-the-art sport fa­cil­i­ties of­fer vis­i­tors the op­tion of ei­ther watch­ing a ma­jor event or hav­ing a go them­selves. Top picks in­clude the Qatar Rac­ing and Eques­trian Club, Khal­ifa In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis and Squash Com­plex and the sprawl­ing As­pire Zone (as­pire­zone.qa), where stand­out fa­cil­i­ties in­clude the Ha­mad Aquatic Cen­tre.

Petrol­heads should con­sider head­ing north of Doha to the town of Lo­sail. The Lo­sail In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit hosts a se­ries of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­sport events, from tour­ing cars to su­per­bikes, with a sep­a­rate track for mo­tocross. You can also get be­hind the wheel your­self, ei­ther on its karting track or on the cir­cuit it­self dur­ing a train­ing day.

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From top: Al Thakira man­groves; As­pire Zone; camel rac­ing; Sheikh Faisal Mu­seum

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