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Qatar - The Hidden Gem of the Middle East

Issue 18 - 2023
Qatar - The Hidden Gem of the Middle East

As an aviation aficionado, it’s a certainty that you’re already familiar with Qatar Airways, the only airline in the world to be named Airline of the Year seven times by Skytrax, and Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, ranked the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2023 for the ninth time in a row.

But it was perhaps only when the nation hosted the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ that travellers everywhere finally understood Doha isn’t just a seamless transfer hub; it’s also the gateway to a remarkably inviting holiday destination. 

In the past years Qatar has launched countless new cultural attractions, shopping districts, family-friendly theme parks, and immaculate hotels that range from the homely to the unfathomably lavish. 

One the most illustrative of the country’s landmarks is the National Museum of Qatar, whose sinuous golden facade is inspired by the crystalline desert rose that lies in the dunes beyond Doha. The museum’s exhibits catalogue a hardy history, when earlier Qataris subsisted from pearl fishing and Bedouin tribes roamed the country’s plains by camel. 

Nowadays, this same desert is a playground where adventurers gather under endless blue skies to enjoy 4x4 dune bashing, sandboarding and paragliding. A surreality, the Inland Sea is one of the only places on Earth where towering dunes plummet straight into turquoise waters. Elsewhere, the coastline offers world-class kitesurfing, and opportunities for kayaking, jet-skiing, whale-shark watching and good-weather-guaranteed beach days. You’re never more than an hour from the seaside either - this petite peninsula is fringed by 563km of silken strands. 

Back in multicultural Doha, every conceivable dining experience awaits. The air is fragranced with fresh spices at Souq Waqif market, where families gather at affordable outdoor cafés to share sizzling shawarmas and mountains of hummus; at Al Maha Island’s restaurant and beach clubs, DJs play as friends sample dishes from all over the world; as dusk draws over West Bay’s skyscrapers, couples ascend to rooftop restaurants for fine-dining feasts and showstopper views. 

That diverse offering - with everything so easily accessible and often surprisingly affordable - means the nation’s popularity has only grown since the tournament. Over a million visitors arrived in the first quarter of 2023 and Qatar Tourism is determined to welcome 6 million international visitors a year by 2030. 

That figure is about double the country’s population, but it’s a key objective of the government-backed Qatar Tourism Strategy 2030. That ambition means Qatar will aim to draw in holidaymakers with plenty more innovative attractions and events in the future. This year alone is still to see the Formula 1® Qatar Airways Qatar Grand Prix 2023 thunder through Lusail International Circuit; The Geneva International Motor Show Qatar showcase awe-inspiring automobiles in Doha; and all things horticultural and ecological take centre stage at Expo 2023 Doha, Qatar. This truly is a new era for Qatar, and there’s never been a better time to experience the best of the country. 

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