Qatar, a hidden gem in the Arabian Gulf

Lizzie Adamson-Brown on 22 May 2017
I have to admit, visiting the Middle East on a trip with my business wasn’t on top of my tick list. I don’t really know why? Was I expecting it to be culture restrictive? I can’t really put my finger on it!

Anyway, I decided I would give Qatar the benefit of the doubt and putting on my professional Travel Counsellor business owner hat, I travelled to Edinburgh to stay overnight before my early flight the next day. Our flight departed from Edinburgh on Qatar Airlines for Doha at 0810, arriving at 17:05.

At Doha airport I was pleasantly surprised to see how lovely and clean and fresh it is, with the added comfort of air conditioning which was most welcome. We were met by representatives of Qatar tourism who transferred us to our hotel, The InterContinental Doha The City.

Stylish and modern, this Doha hotel is impressive in every detail, from the hotel lobby atrium to the open-air rooftop pool. This Doha hotel is ideally located for leisure and business stays in the exclusive West Bay area and is close to Doha Golf Club, the City Centre Shopping Mall, and the more traditional Souq Waqif.

After settling in to my room which was magnificent, with fantastic views over Doha, to the sea. I could see that Doha is a city undergoing some development which promises to be a popular destination, as Dubai is in the UAE.

We then enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Doha followed by a hotel inspection.

Ritz-Carlton, Doha is one of the most elegant hotels in Qatar with a world class Spa and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. It has recently undergone a no-expense spared renovation of its rooms.

Next morning we had breakfast at Shangri-La, another fabulous hotel, we were shown around by our lovely hotel representative.

Shangri-La is located in the heart of the city and is home to Doha’s first non-smoking lounge.

Following this, we headed off on a long drive to the historical Al Zubarah Fort, built in 1938, is Qatar’s only UNESCO world heritage site. Which in the main archaeological area of Qatar and is now a museum. This site shows the exceptional archaeological remains from this trading town, dating back to the 1760’s Back in Doha, we inspect Sharq Village Resort and Spa, followed by lunch.

A luxury waterfront Doha resort, located 15 mins from the airport and is on 350m of private coastline. My favourite feature was the award winning ‘Sixth Senses’ spa, which evokes a traditional Qatari setting, creating the ambience of a true Middle Eastern village. A perfect destination for spa and yoga trips!

Following on from this we were given a guided tour of Museum of Islamic Art, showing a magnificent collection covering 14 centuries of the finest art and artefacts from across the Islamic World.

Returning to my hotel I had some free time before dinner, so why not sample a swim in the top floor swimming pool and steam room, all in the name of business!

Time for dinner, and what an experience this was! We set sail in this lovely port and estuary in the Arabian on-board a traditional Dhow for a private BBQ.

This is a great way to experience Doha from the water. We took in Doha’s glittery skyline. I would definitely advise any visitor to take this cruise in an evening, to watch the spectacular sunset.

Our breakfast next morning was at Sheraton Doha. Situated on the shores of the Arabian gulf, this is a landmark hotel that was recently restored to its former glory.

After our site inspection of this fabulous hotel, we travelled 60km into the desert from Doha to the ‘Inland Sea’ or ‘Khor Al Adaid’, which is a UNESCO recognised natural reserve with its own ecosystem.

Then on a jeep dune safari the adrenaline rush was fabulous and we didn’t stop laughing the whole time. It was great to actually see one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Half way through our jeep journey through the rolling dunes, we stopped to view Saudi Arabia in the distance over the gulf.

Back in Doha in the afternoon, we took a stroll down the bustling alleys of Souq Waqif. The maze of small shops offers a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies to perfumes, jewellery, clothing, handicrafts and a treasure trove of souvenir bargains.

Traditional music, art and cultural shows added to the ambience and we enjoyed soaking up the vitality and atmosphere of this vibrant place.

For dinner, we visited the InterContinental Doha, which is beside the beach, hosted a lovely BBQ in the evening. The outdoor space is superb and perfect for any parties, celebrations as it’s directly on the beach.

After a very busy trip, I kicked off my shoes and went for a paddle in the sea.

All too soon, it was time to come home (sad face) on our flight back to Edinburgh.

As I said, I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved Qatar.

It’s a perfect stopover destination and you’re missing a trick if you don’t take advantage of this fabulous place. The people are lovely and we weren’t bogged down by customs and cultures.

With lots of ongoing developments and work on the infrastructure, meaning that it’s going to be even more popular as Qatar leads up to hosting the 2022 World Cup.

Go on, try Qatar, You won’t be disappointed!