Lusail is a master-planned city in Qatar, being developed in timing with FIFA World Cup 2022 — Photo courtesy of Qatar Tourism
From November 21 through December 18, FIFA World Cup matches will take place within eight stadiums with their locations in Qatar's capital of Doha, the cities of Al Rayyan and Al Khor City and the futuristic city of Lusail.
Along with becoming the first Middle Eastern country to hold this major sporting event, Qatar is undergoing rapid development. There's much hotel construction, with at least 100 plus properties being added, and an expanding metro transportation network.
Encompassed by beaches and desert, Qatar offers luxury accommodations, cultural venues, innovative architecture, historic wonders and other sports and adventure activities.
Flying to and from Qatar
The "Lamp Bear" is quite the sculpture at Hamad International Airport — Photo courtesy of Qatar Tourism
Hamad International Airport is Qatar’s prime aviation hub with, as of 2022, a network of 160 destinations. Passengers can find high-end stores and gourmet or grab-and-go food and beverage options.
Amid airport art, the “Lamp Bear” is a 23-foot canary yellow sculpture by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, with its head seemingly stuck inside a black lamp. The bronze bear was purchased at a New York auction in 2011 for $6.8 million by a member of Qatar's royal family.
The on-site Oryx Airport Hotel is where passengers with layovers or short stays can book a stay and/or have access to their fitness center, squash court, spa, swimming pool or golf simulator. Hamad International Airport is the operating base for Qatar Airways, the country's state-owned flag carrier. It flies to Doha from 12 major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Their airline’s patented Qsuite made headlines upon its debut in 2017, as having the first-ever double bed in Business Class.
National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar tells of this country's history — Photo courtesy of Michele Herrmann
The exterior of the National Museum of Qatar is a work of art unto itself. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the building’s surface is modeled after a desert rose. It is a flowerlike crystal formed from sand and gypsum commonly found in Qatar.
Inside, follow along a Qatar timeline with 11 gallery spaces informing about the country’s beginnings up to the present day. The museum's grounds include the palace of Qatar’s former Emir, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani; a gift shop; a park and a cafe. At its Jiwan restaurant, dine outdoors on contemporary Qatari cuisine amid a backdrop of Doha.
Katara Cultural Village
The Katara Cultural Village includes an amphitheater along with other visual and performing arts spaces — Photo courtesy of Qatar Tourism
Along Doha's Katara Beach waterfront, Katara Cultural Village is an arts and entertainment complex linked through alleyways and adjacent to a promenade.
The village holds galleries, a planetarium, a masjid and an amphitheater plus an opera house that is the home to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. The Lebanese restaurant, Bayt El Talleh, overlooks the village via a hilltop and makes a wonderful nighttime dining spot.
The Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art safeguards a collection spanning 1,400 years — Photo courtesy of Museum of Islamic Art
Designed by I.M. Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art is set along an artificial island at the Corniche, which is Doha’s waterfront promenade. The museum is connected to the shore by two pedestrian bridges and a vehicular bridge.
The building’s facade is influenced by ancient Islamic architecture but has modern aesthetics with incorporating geometric patterns. Inside, the museum houses a collection of Islamic art consisting of over 11,000 objects and spanning three continents and 13 centuries. Afterward your visit, wander around MIA Park, a public green space next to the museum.
In spring 2021, the museum closed for a facilities enhancement and reinstallation project; it's expected to reopen in autumn 2022.
Take a dhow cruise
While visiting Doha, take a cruise onboard a dhow — Photo courtesy of Michele Herrmann
Doha’s Corniche is also the launching point for dhows to set sail along the Doha Bay. These sailing vessels certainly have their place in Qatar’s seafaring stories, such as being used in the past for pearl diving.
Today, dhows are taken out for bay cruises with amazing views of the Doha skyline. They can be scheduled through a tour operator or you can inquire at your hotel for recommendations.
10 affordable street foods to try in Abu Dhabi
10 affordable street foods to try in Abu Dhabi
Msheireb Downtown Doha
Msheireb Downtown Doha is a mix of new development and longstanding architecture — Photo courtesy of Qatar Tourism
Developing as a sustainable regeneration project, Msheireb Downtown Doha is bridging Doha's past, present and future through applying smart technology in transforming this longtime urban spot. Its layout is broken down into different quarters, including residential, retail, mixed use and heritage. New construction coincides with longtime buildings.
The Mandarin Oriental, Doha, Alwadi Hotel Doha - MGallery and Msheireb Galleria, a luxe shopping mall, are among the added properties encompassing this district. The Msheireb Museums inform about different aspects of Qatar's socio-economic history, through the stories of all who shaped it, at four historic heritage homes. Then, there's the Doha Design District, an innovation hub for designers and creative entrepreneurs from Qatar and beyond.
Souq Waqif is a happening spot in the evenings — Photo courtesy of Michele Herrmann
A bustling marketplace in Doha, near the Msheireb Downtown Doha, the Souq Waqif is a labyrinth market full of storefronts and vendor stalls either along its various squares or amid crisscrossing passageways, selling spices, perfumes, garments and handicrafts.
Cafes and restaurants representing multiple Middle Eastern cuisines interconnect here. Parisa's Persian dishes and ornate decor, with intricate mosaics and embellished chandeliers, provide a memorable culinary experience.
Head to the Gold Souq, which glistens with contemporary and traditional jewelry. The Souq Waqif Art Center fosters talent in budding artists while showcasing visual art reflecting Qatari heritage. Also within the Souq, spot “Le Pouce,” a golden thumb statue by French artist César Baldaccini.
Additionally, check out Al Wakrah Souq, which is based in the seaside district of the same name.
Do some dune buggy-ing
A different way to see Qatar is by going on a desert safari — Photo courtesy of Michele Herrmann
Another way to experience Qatar is by a desert safari. Excursions head to Khor Al Adaid, a region in southeast Qatar that’s also known as the Inland Sea. This location is unique due to its waters meeting up alongside the sand; bordering Saudi Arabia can be seen across the way. Tour companies often have their drivers take 4x4s up, down and around the region’s massive sand dunes, heading out in time to catch the sunrise.
The Pearl-Qatar's Qanat Quartier reminds you of Venice — Photo courtesy of Michele Herrmann
Developed on reclaimed land, The Pearl-Qatar is an artificial island made up of several districts with high-end shops, businesses and residential properties. Among them, the Qanat Quartier gives off more of a feeling of being in Venice, as the district contains piazzas, canals and light-colored buildings.
A newcomer to The Pearl-Qatar is the St. Regis Marsa Arabia, which will hold luxury hotel guest rooms and private residences emphasizing luxurious living. This St. Regis design will incorporate Arabesque design and Andalusian art along with modern details; the grand chandelier within the main lobby will become a popular photo taking spot.
St. Regis Doha puts on an incredible brunch on Friday afternoons — Photo courtesy of St. Regis Doha
As Qatar is gearing up for the FIFA World Cup, 100-plus hotels are in the pipeline to accommodate attendees. In providing a place to stay, these luxurious properties also serve as day and nighttime hot spots – they're licensed to serve alcohol.
As with other Middle Eastern countries, Fridays in Qatar are the start of the weekend and a popular day for brunch. The St. Regis Doha in Doha’s West Bay presents their Grand Brunch on Friday afternoons, with outdoor dining along the hotel terrace’s waterside views. Their abundant spread of food stations encompasses salads, entrees of meat and fish and Middle Eastern and Western desserts.
Even younger guests can have their share of experiences. An hour southwest of Doha, the Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas contains the Desert Falls Water & Adventure Park. This amusement attraction features a water playground, a canyoneering course, waterslides, lazy rivers and pools. Those who want to keep dry can try go-karting or play laser tag.