The Middle East is known in the world over for many things, but far and foremost is its abundance of oil and Qatar is no different. No one expected it to be the host of the 2022 World Cup competition until it was announced back in 2010. Being host to the competition shed a different light on this side of the Arabian Gulf allowing us to see it as a tourist friendly destination and not just for those flying in and out just for business, but learn about Qatar’s history culture and what it has to offer an adventurer.
If you haven’t visited recently, you’ll see the evolution immediately and if it’s your first time, the pace of growth is evident in the country’s modernity. Take Lusail, whose Stadium will host the final. It’s entirely new city just north of the capital of Doha, and its most audacious architectural land mark can deservedly be described as iconic: the curved arms that form the intertwined Fairmont and Raffles hotels represent the crossed scimitar swords of Qatar’s national seal.
Together the hotels will house 12 dining venues along side spectacular suites and some of the country’s most lavish spa facilities. Minutes away, the newly opened Place Vendome Qatar is an immense mall that’s intersected by a canal and Parisian-style avenues. Lusail Boulevard is lined with designer boutiques, but you might be mostly surprised by the Lusail Winter Wonderland. Set alongside the waterfront with restaurants and beach clubs of Al Maha Island. This festive fair house offers cosy chalets, intimate eateries and family-friendly rides but inevitably feels different from those in European countries – while visitors to the European contemporaries freeze, visitors here wear T-Shirts. December daily temperatures averages 25C.
There is The Ned Doha, a reinterpretation of The Ned in London. The Ned Doha hotel and members’ club is housed in the city’s former Ministry of Interior building. With its peaked roof inspired by Qatar’s traditional dhow sailboats, Corinthia Hotels’ Corinthia Yacht Club will be a haven for anyone who’s happiest on the water.
The same could be said for Fuwairit Kite Beach, on the northern coast of the country. It just so happens that the cooling winds that glide over Qatar’s warm waters provide some of the world’s best kitesurfing conditions, and this relaxed colourful resort will be a new global hub for anyone who wants to try their hand at the activity (mastering the basic during short holiday or stopover is surprisingly easy).
Another unique retreat, The Outpost Al Barari, is hidden at the southernmost tip of the country. Featuring 21 tented lodges with private pools, the desert camp is found at the Inland Sea, one of the only places in the world where towering dunes tumble directly into the water. The surrounding allows for dune buggying and paragliding, or less strenuous pursuits like swimming and sunbathing.
You’ll also find the desert in central Doha, at least symbolic as it home to the National Museum of Qatar’s one-of-kind façade. The museum’s huge golden disc were inspired by the silhouette of the rare desert rose, an organic crystalline compound occasionally found deep in the sands. The landmark documents Qatari history from antiquity to the present day, and like the nearby Museum of Islamic Art, it was extensively renovated before the World Cup. As it happens, National Museum of Qatar is displaying a selection of the world’s most beautiful vintage cars until late January – they’re a preview of the motors you can expect to see when the forthcoming Qatar Auto Museum opens.
Car connoisseurs will have further reason to visit Qatar in 2023, with the Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix and the Geneva International Motor Show Qatar both being hosted here in October 2023. From Doha’s exhaustive cultural calendar, Forever Valentino (running until April) is proving particularly popular. This is said to be Valentino’s most comprehensive exhibition to date, it’s the brands unprecedented tribute to the maison’s creative heritage and Romain origins.
There are a lot on offer for those wishing to visit with their family. The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sport Museum offers the opportunity to relive past sporting events before testing your physical prowess in the interactive games gallery. The Entertainment Island offers activities for the whole family; there is the floating hotels and beach clubs, Qetaifan Island North’s sprawling water park will include the world’s tallest water slides – at 85 metres, the Icon Tower is over is one and half times taller than London’s Nelson Column. A calmer venue is the upmarket Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som is split into two: Zulal Serenity is for adults only, and Zulal Discovery for family activities.
Qatar is highly compact and has excellent transport infrastructure - it takes just over an hour to drive from Doha on the eastern coast to the western shoreline. The World Cup may be drawing to a close, but there’s never been a better time to plan a visit.