Travelers can get their adrenaline fix by dune bashing in Qatar. // © 2017 iStock
Feature image (above): The Middle Eastern country blends new and old, with its modern architecture and traditional “dhow” wooden boats. // © 2017 iStock
Five-star luxury hotels don’t often offer free stays. But this summer, Qatar Tourism Authority, in partnership with Qatar Airways, will offer a stopover package that includes a free 96-hour entrance visa and a free one-night stay at Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha or Oryx Rotana Doha, all located in the country’s capital city.
To take the advantage of the offer, called +Qatar, travelers should book their tickets directly on Qatar Airlines’ website, select a multicity itinerary and then choose a hotel after receiving their flight confirmation. The online 96-hour transit visa application is also free.
Available through the summer, this promotion may further entice clients to explore Qatar and its capital as well as to experience authentic Arabian hospitality.
“We are delighted to make Qatar more accessible to people from around the world and invite them to discover our country, our cultural heritage and our natural treasures,” said Hassan Al-Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer for Qatar Tourism Authority.
A mix of the ancient and the modern, the Middle Eastern country is a place of curious contrasts, where skyscrapers and five-star hotels coexist with traditional Bedouin tents, and old-fashioned markets rival top-notch shopping malls. And whether you’re an adventure seeker, a culture explorer or an avid shopper, Doha has something to offer for everyone.
For Adventure Seekers
Daring travelers can experience a variety of adventures in Qatar. For starters, there’s dune-bashing with Falcon Tours: a high-adrenaline desert car trip, in which luxury SUVs ride up and down the steep sand dunes. And to experience the desert like true Bedouins — albeit with modern comforts, including air-conditioning — travelers can overnight at a Regency Sealine Camp about an hour outside of Doha.
Travelers can also take a cruise onboard a “dhow,” or a traditional wooden boat, or explore the old tradition of falconry. Falcons occupy a special place in Qatar’s culture, as they once were used for hunting. Nowadays, falcons only serve as favored pets, and falconry is a sport. These birds cost up to thousands of dollars, have their own hospitals and are allowed to be taken on planes with their owners.
For Culture Explorers
Before the oil fortunes, Doha was a fishing and pearling village, and it still retains many of its ancient traditions from that time. But while Qatari men wear white robes, called “dishdashis,” and Qatari women don black cloaks, called “abayas,” the cultural gender stereotypes aren’t exactly black-and-white — there are many nuances.
To learn about Qatar’s history and modern life, travelers can start with the Museum of Islamic Art on the shore of the Doha Bay, which features a collection of antique texts, ceramics, jewels and more. As for making sense of Doha’s present, visit Katara Cultural Village, a walkable area that showcases art sculptures, revolving exhibitions and photo galleries.
Last but not least, for clients interested in an array of insights into this ancient culture, Embrace Doha offers a crash course on Qatari culture that explains everything from the art of pouring coffee to social gender etiquette.
For Avid Shoppers
When it comes to shopping, Doha has everything from charming, old-fashioned shops to top-notch malls.
Villaggio, the city’s most prominent mall, features world-famous designer labels as well as restaurants and coffee shops. Besides its irresistible shopping, it is also famed for its Venice, Italy-like interior that was built as a series of canals. Little gondolas sail in the mall, steered by authentic-looking gondoliers in striped shirts.
On the contrary, Souq Waqif, or “standing market,” is a traditional bazaar that retained its original style. With a maze of small shops that seem to take travelers back in time, Souq Waqif is the place to go for handmade jewelry, custom-welded lamps, carved-to-order sandals and inexpensive, yet still exquisite, perfume. There are also shops that sell the beloved Qatari falcons.