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Sarah’s Blog: Discover Qatar with me

Qatar stepped into the world's spotlight when it hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Unlike its Middle Eastern neighbours, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, relatively little is known about this small Arab nation. Most travellers, perfectly illustrated by our outgoing flight, will have only visited Doha airport en route elsewhere.

Qatar Airways is a popular airline, but few people seem to stopover, and I would like to make a case for considering it.

I had been due to visit on the way back from Bali in 2020, which of course never happened. So, when offered the opportunity by Gold Medal Travel and Discover Qatar to join a handful of fellow agents, I couldn't pack quickly enough!

My overall impression is one of an extremely safe and clean country with welcoming locals and understated luxury. Often in ultra-luxury destinations, there is a feeling of pretentiousness that can make visitors feel uncomfortable. Not so in Doha.

Our first stop after an excellent flight was the Hilton Salwa Beach Resort and Spa on the west coast, around an hour’s journey from the airport.

Arriving somewhere in the dark after a long day of traveling can make it tough to be immediately impressed, but this resort was immediately impressive.

My suite was just the welcome I needed - extremely spacious and comfortable with traditional Arabic touches. All suites have sea views with either a large terrace or balcony; and for larger families seeking additional privacy, options include a townhouse or private pool villa in the resort’s Arabian Village area.

The resort is home to Desert Falls Water Park, and unlimited entry is included for all resort guests.

This remote hotel makes staying on half-board or all-inclusive essential. We enjoyed dining in the international buffet restaurant (excellent sushi!) and had an Italian feast for lunch before heading back to Doha.

On the alcohol front, Qatar has some tight laws around its consumption. Like the Maldives, you cannot bring alcohol in or buy it from a shop, but it's freely available in western hotels and restaurants within these establishments that anyone can use.

However, it comes at a price. Average costs are £10+ for a bottle of beer, £15+ for a cocktail/ G&T, and for a lovely bottle of Sauvignon, be prepared to shell out the best part of £100 or more.

Be aware that Souq Waqif in the old city is dry, and drinking is not possible anywhere in the area.

A top tip for those who enjoy a holiday tipple is to check out Time Out and events listings for details of happy hours, ladies’ nights, brunches and dinner options, where add-on packages can make alcohol much more affordable.

Alternatively, embrace being sober - I enjoyed some fabulous mocktails, and I'm convinced the lack of people drinking is what makes this city feel so incredibly safe, even late at night.

For the rest of the trip, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Doha, an elegant resort-style hotel in West Bay with stunning views of The Pearl and the city beyond.

Doha is a reasonably compact city, so wherever you stay, it's easy to get around by metro, trams, buses or taxis - and they're all really cheap, too!

Architecture, museums and culture are abundant, with the National Museum of Qatar being a highlight. Its 11 galleries detail Qatar’s history, from Bedouin tribes and pearl divers to the discovery of oil through to the modern-day.

The building itself is an architectural triumph, cleverly designed to resemble a desert rose - a naturally forming crystal.

Treat yourself to lunch at Jiwan on the fourth floor with contemporary Qatari cuisine served on the outdoor terrace while enjoying spectacular views across the city.

Doha is a modern city that still embraces its authentic traditions. Souq Waqif is a must-see, where you can haggle for bargains in the many shops that line the alleyways or simply linger over an Arabic coffee or freshly squeezed juice and watch local life.

This area comes to life at night, with an array of restaurants and street food stalls serving traditional dishes such as samosas, kebabs, makhboos (local rice dish), mezes and desserts.

Falconry is a traditional sport, and you can see these beautiful birds up close at the Falcon Souq and wander past the dedicated Falcon Hospital.

Qatar is one of the few places in the world where the desert meets the sea, so no trip here is complete without discovering some of the many desert experiences on offer.

Much of the landscape is only accessible by 4x4, so a dune-bashing trip is great fun. If hands-on is more your choice, try sandboarding or hitting the dunes on a quad bike or beach buggy.

After an exhilarating morning in the desert, we relaxed at the Regency Sealine Camp. You can visit for the day to enjoy the ocean and a Middle Eastern-style feast for lunch or stay overnight in a luxury tent and experience dinner under the stars.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit to Qatar and it's somewhere I'd love to go back to and share with my family.

My top reasons to consider a visit:

  • Very easy - clean, safe and great local transport

  • Combines traditional culture with modernity

  • A fantastic food scene and world-class hotels

  • Year-round sunshine

  • Family friendly - Doha is a very relaxed city with lots for kids to do. Plenty of parks, open spaces and free events.


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