Archaeological evidence show human habitation of Qatar dating back to the Stone Age, and that there was a healthy seagoing community in the peninsula as early as 5000 BC. Hunting, gathering and fishing supported these early communities.
In medieval times, Qatar was an important trading post in the Gulf-Indian Ocean commerce. It was dominated by the Ottomans in the 19th century and then became a British protectorate in 1916. The arrival of oil prospectors and the establishment in 1935 of Petroleum Development Qatar signaled the beginning of a new era. Since gaining independence in 1971, the sovereign state has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse.
The ruling Al Thani family, a branch of an ancient Arab tribe, settled in Qatar during the early 18th century. The current Emir is His Highness, Sheikh Tamin Bin Hamad Al Thani.
Despite ongoing 21st century advancements, Qatar places great value on its most important possession, its rich cultural heritage. Customs and traditions are still widely observed and historical sites are well-preserved.
Blend of Old and New
The stunning urban landscape of Doha can make one forget that the beginnings of Qatar date back 7,000 years. Qatar always fascinates with its contrasting, open, 21st century society that is rooted in culture and history. It has soaring skyscrapers and beautiful mosques, local souqs and upscale malls, falcons homing back to their masters, jets that cut through the sky, historic forts and futuristic hotels, camel races and international sporting events.
Oil and gas production are the drivers of Qatar’s economy. Oil production capacity is 850,000 barrels per day. Qatar is the largest global exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) producing some 38 million tons annually. Efforts to diversify the economy are high on the agenda. The result is a broad range of growth industries including banking, telecommunications and IT, fertilizer production, aluminum smelting, construction, tourism, and real estate.
Qataris are passionately committed to upholding their heritage and cultural values while forging one of the most advanced societies in the world. Its ancient history can be glimpsed in carefully preserved heritage sites including forts and prehistoric settlements where rare petroglyphs have been discovered.
In the metamorphosing capital city of Doha itself, the passion for capturing and reviving Qatar’s cultural heritage is felt everywhere – magnificent museums housing priceless artefacts, restored Bedouin souqs, merchant houses, and royal residences, prestigious races and shows purely for Arabian horses, and traditional wooden dhows plying the bay.
The climate is characterized by a mild winter and a hot summer. Rainfall in the winter is slight, averaging some 80 millimeters a year. Temperatures range from 7 degrees centigrade in January to around 45 degrees at the height of summer (July and August). The weather is generally pleasant from October until May.
Safety & Security Doha is recognized as one of the safest cities, and Qatar as one of the safest countries in the world. Business travelers arriving alone or with their families for the Symposium can take confidence in Qatar’s 2014 ranking by the Global Peace Index as the 22nd most peaceful of 162 nations of the world. It is the only country in the Middle East to be ranked among the top 20 most peaceful nations. Qatar’s crime rate in all categories is a fraction of the world average – one quarter of the average for robberies per 100,000 people and 12.5% of the average for homicides. The government has ensured that residents and visitors of all backgrounds and nationalities feel at home and safe in Qatar. Thus, Americans, Brazilians, British, Dutch, Filipinos, Germans, Indians, Japanese, Lebanese, and South Africans, to name but a few, live and work together in harmony. United Nations agencies frequently hold international meetings and conferences in Doha, due in great measure to its peaceful and secure setting.
Qataris are passionately committed to upholding their heritage and cultural values while forging one of the most advanced societies in the world. There are a number of must-see cultural sites:
In the middle of the city sits an imposing fort, a former prison and military base built in 1880. It is currently undergoing restoration. On the outskirts of the central business district, the Al-Shahaniya Race Track showcases the centuries-old Arab sport of camel racing, in 21st century style.
Museum of Islamic Art
Housing one of the world’s most encyclopedic collections of Islamic art, the new Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is the cornerstone of a monumental effort by Qatar to transform itself into the arts hub of the Middle East. Its dazzling artifacts span 13 centuries and three continents. The MIA, with hard, chiseled forms inspired by ancient mosques and stone fortresses, is a masterpiece of world-renowned architect I. M. Pei. Situated on Doha’s seafront, the museum includes exhibition halls, library, educational center and an exterior covering a total area of 45,000m².
Recently restored to reflect the old Doha using old plans and maps, the popular Souq is not only a trading place, but also a meeting hub for locals and visitors. A large labyrinth of alleyways lined with small shops, Souq Waqif is frequented for its spices, sweets, dried fruits, local honey, essential oils, clothing, incense, textiles and garments. Its restaurants and teahouses are also attractions.
Unlike some destinations in the region, Qatar wants to be the archetypal Arabia and maintain that unique visitor experience. Beyond the conference rooms awaits an amazing array of authentic Arabian encounters. Experience the age-old thrills of falconry or camel racing. Marvel at the legendary Arabian horses or the exotic oryx. Take a desert safari and camp out in Bedouin tents. Listen to the sand “sing.” Bask in the breath-taking beauty of an Arabian sunset. Step into Qatar’s 7,000-year history in its enigmatic forts, seaside towns and ancient settlements. Visit royal residences restored into exquisite showcases of eastern Arabian architecture. See the Museum of Islamic Art’ astonishing collection spanning 13 centuries. Behold the ethereal beauty of Khor al-Adaid, an “inland sea” surrounded by crescent-shaped sand dunes, some rising up to 40 meters high.
Bargain at the labyrinth markets of Souq Waqif. Smoke sheesha in a traditional coffee shop. Have a shawarma snack of grilled lamb, or thyme pies, washed down with mint tea.
Do what the locals do to enjoy their late afternoons – stroll along the Corniche or pack olives, hummus, Arabic bread and mango juice and hire a dhow for a lazy cruise.
Places of Interest
There are several impressive forts surrounding Doha, including the Sheikh Faisal Museum (housing an extraordinary personal collection of cars and artefacts), and the magnificent Al Zubara fortress, a former settlement and thriving trade region, where archaeological investigations are ongoing. About 40km south-west of Doha, the Singing Dunes are an amazing experience – one of the few places in the world where conditions are just right for sand dunes to produce an eerie humming across the desert landscape.
The nearby beach resorts of Doha offer jet skiing, water-skiing, windsurfing and sailing. Two artificial reefs have been created for avid divers. Doha Bay and the Gulf beyond offer fantastic fishing, and cruises are perfect for sunset dinners. The traditional wooden dhow is a great way to take in the calm, warm waters of the bay. Several exotic islands with unspoiled reefs and resorts lie within a couple of hours’ sail from Doha.
Qatar has several gleaming Western-style malls which offer not only a wide range of merchandise and services, but also a host of well-known international brands at competitive prices — City Center Doha, , Lagoona, Villaggio, Ezdan and Landmark. They are generally open Saturday to Thursday from 10.00 to 22.00 and on Friday from 14.00 to 22.00.
The Doha Golf Club enjoys a championship course designed by Peter Harradine. A beautiful though challenging course, it is home to the PGA Qatar Master Golf Tournament.
The traditional wooden dhows of the Gulf can be seen at the Fishing Harbor on the Corniche. Fishing provided food and an income for the coastal families. In addition to the working boats, some of the dhows are equipped by tour operators to accommodate groups for boating leisure trips to nearby islands and evening cruises.
Khor Al Udaid (Inland Sea)
The “inland sea” is a naturally formed inlet of the Arabian Gulf, which lies in the extreme southeast of Qatar, 78 kilometers from Doha and offers a unique experience of Qatari wildlife (dugong, turtles, waterfowl and gazelles) along with a stunning landscape and beach relaxation. The scalloped dunes of Khor Al Udaid, formed by the winds blowing across the region, rise up to a height of 40 meters in some places. Organized tours to Khor Al Udaid feature exhilarating drives along the dunes, riding camels, sand skiing, and overnight camps.
Accessibility and transportation
Qatar’s unique location close to the Indian, Southeast Asian and Far East economic powerhouses, as well as the consumer markets of the west, has set the stage for this new global crossroads. Qatar is only six hours away from the capital cities of Europe and Asia and 13 hours from major destinations in North America. Doha International Airport is served by 35 international airlines which all operate regular scheduled flights from Europe, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region among others. The airport is just five kilometers from the city center. Qatar Airways is leading the race in redeveloping the region’s future aviation hub, the New Doha International Airport. Situated approximately four kilometers east of the existing airport, the new facility will be the world’s first airport to accommodate unrestricted operations by all commercial aircraft, including the A380 – the largest passenger aircraft ever built.
Qatar Airways operates a modern fleet of 119 Airbus and Boeing aircraft and with over 250 more on order. Qatar Airways is one of the world’s fastest growing carriers. It is one of only six airlines to be awarded five – star status by Skytrax and is consistently ranked as the Middle East’s top airline rated Best Middle East Airline for six consecutive years and named Airline of the Year 2011 and 2012 by Aviation Business. Qatar Airways currently flies to more than 120 diverse business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, the Far East and North America. The airline’s code-share partners include All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, Malaysia Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Philippine Airlines, US Airways, Azerbaijan Airlines, SNCF and Oman Air.
Other international airlines delegates also benefit from the air services of nearby hubs Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Both cities are less than one hour away from Doha and offer additional connections to international destinations, further enhancing Qatar’s global access. European and African carriers operate direct services to Doha and regional hubs. U.S. national airline Delta flies from Atlanta to Dubai and United flies from Chicago to Dubai. US Airways is Qatar Airways’ partner in USA and connections can be made via New York, Washington, Houston and Montreal from any city in North America. Qatar Airways currently flies to more than 120 destinations directly covering all regions.
The national transport company Mowasalat operates bus, taxi and limousine services. Taxi service is 24 hours; taxis can be hailed from the side of the road. The fare from the airport to any destination in Doha by cab is approximately QAR40 (US$11). Limousines can be booked for specific journeys or by the hour.
Nationals of the following countries with a passport valid for more than six months can apply for a 30 day entry visa for either business or leisure travel upon arrival to Qatar or at their local embassy: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, US, Vatican.
Payment is made upon arrival at the immigration desk with Visa, Visa-Electron, Mastercard, Maestro or E-Cash – the cost is 100QAR (US$ 27.45). A hotel booking or the presence of relatives in the country is required. This visa also allows access to Oman during the 30 days validity.
Nationals who are not eligible to receive a visa on arrival will be assisted by their hotel or the Conference organizer to process their visa prior to their visit.
|Alcohol||Qatar has a relatively liberal attitude to the consumption of alcohol for non-Muslims. Liquor is available in many hotels. However it is strictly forbidden to bring alcohol into the country including Duty Free. During the Holy month of Ramadan alcohol is not served.|
|Banking||Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are readily accessible throughout the city. Banking hours are generally 7.30am – 1pm Sunday to Thursday with some branches open in the afternoons.|
|Business hours||The working week in Qatar runs from Sunday to Thursday with Friday (the holy day for Muslims) and Saturday being days off.|
|Communication||Local telephone calls are free. The majority of hotels offer broadband connectivity various cafes and parks around Qatar offer free wireless and wireless “hot spots” are becoming more frequently accessible.|
|Common Courtesies in Qatar||Women are highly regarded in business at all levels. Western men and women freely wear western style clothing. However it is advisable that clothing for both men and women covers the knees and sleeveless tops showing the shoulders and upper arms should be avoided. Tight or revealing clothing is unseemly for both men and women.|
|Photography||It is requested that permission is sought before photographing any local Qataris. Arab women are very modest so it is recommended that men approach other males for directions or advice.|
|Embassies||Qatar has 78 diplomatic embassies and six general consulates abroad with over 50 foreign Diplomatic Representatives in Qatar.|
|Government||The Emir is the ruler of Qatar. Rule is hereditary within the family of Al Thani whereby power is transferred from father and son. The Emir is the head of the constitutional authorities holding both legislative and executive powers. The Emir appoints the Prime Ministers and Ministers. The Council of Ministers (Cabinet) the supreme executive authority assists in implementing the general policies of the State.|
|Newspapers||There are three English daily newspapers in Qatar: Gulf Times The Peninsula and the Qatar Tribune.|
|Population||1 670 389 (Qatar Statistics Authority – May 2011)|
|Resources||Primarily petroleum and gas although finance – insurance – real estate – business services – manufacturing industries – medical care and research are all growing sectors.|
|Safety||Qatar is ranked as one of the safest places in the world by the Global Peace Index above France UK and USA. Strolling the corniche or walking around the city center walking to and from your hotels is a very safe environment.|
|Smoking||Qatar has tobacco-control laws banning smoking in public places such as restaurants shopping centers and sports venues. Many consider smoking “shisha” the perfect complement to local food and drink. The pipe is filled with water and tobacco which is available in different flavors such as apple strawberry and even chocolate.|
|Travellers with disabilities||Many of the hotels have ramps allowing for wheelchair access into the building and elevators once inside. The larger more modern hotels have rooms for disable guests. Most of the malls have elevators and escalators and enlarged washroom facilities for disabled guests. Al Maha Doha’s Meet & Greet Service can offer assistance to physically challenged visitors upon arrival.|
|Visa||A visa is required and nationals from more than 30 countries will be issued with a visa upon arrival. Visas can be pre-arranged electronically through the official Qatar government website. Passport holders of countries unable to receive a visa on arrival can arrange with their hotel.|
|Water||Water in Qatar is safe to drink. There are currently 9 desalination plants with 12 to be constructed by 2012. Many people prefer to drink bottled water.|
Where to Stay ?
Sheraton Doha Resort & Convention Hotel
Al Corniche St, Doha, Qatar
+974 4485 4444 • sheratondoha.com
The Ritz-Carlton, Doha
West Bay Lagoon, Doha, Doha, Qatar
+974 4484 8000 • ritzcarlton.com
W Doha Hotel & Residences
West Bay Lagoon, Doha, Qatar
+974 4453 5000 • whoteldoha.com
Grand Hyatt Doha
West Bay Lagoon, Doha, Qatar
+974 4448 1234 • doha.grand.hyatt.com
Al Isteqlal Road, West Bay Lagoon, Doha, Qatar
+974 4484 4444 • ihg.com
Mövenpick Hotel Doha
Corniche Road, Doha, Qatar
+974 4429 1111 • moevenpick-hotels.com
The St. Regis Doha
Doha West Bay, Doha, Qatar
+974 4446 0000 • stregisdoha.com
Courtyard Doha City Center
West Bay City Center, Omar Al Mukhtar Street, West Bay, Doha, Qatar
+974 4419 5555 • marriott.com