I have recently spent 5 days in Qatar by invitation of QATAR Airlines, Hyatt Hotels and Discover Qatar Holidays. I have only been aware of the country in recent years due to very positive feedback about their national airline. I had been expecting something similar to Dubai but was pleasantly surprised. Qatar is a small country with only one land border with Saudi Arabia. The country is on a peninsular on the west coast of the Persian Gulf and contrary to what I thought, not part of the UAE.
Qatar Airlines certainly lived up to its reputation with their business class seating in the A350-1000. The Business Class Q Suites are, as suggested, similar to other airline’s First Class Suites.We divided our stay between two very different Hyatt Hotels. The Hyatt Grand (image above) was close to Pearl (the man-made luxurious island development) and my room had a large balcony overlooking pools and gardens with a private beach.
Our second stay was at Park Hyatt and this was a short walk from Souk Waqif which offered a variety of Middle Eastern shops and restaurants. The Souq was a selection of stores covering a large area separated by small alleyways. You could buy everything you need from spices to fabrics to budgerigars. It reminded me of a small version of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul,
The Park Hyatt has only been open for a few months with a lovely pool area, gym and spa and offered a wonderful daily breakfast.
There are numerous art pieces in the city and below are two examples that caught my eye in Katara Cultural Village. The first is one of “Ghandis Three Monkeys (“See no evil, hear no evil and say no evil“). The three sculptures are made from a selection of everyday household utensils. The sculptures portray a human head wearing a gas mask (as below), another a soldier’s helmet and the third, a terrorist’s hood. The other sculpture that particularly caught my attention was called the ‘Force of Nature’ and shows a woman swinging the earth…the woman of course represents Mother Earth.
We also did a half day Desert Safari Tour which was quite the adventure and obviously a popular activity for the locals. We discovered that there were many Qataris who like to go desert-bashing just as many Australians like to go camping in the bush. Some of the drivers we saw also appeared to like surfing the dunes the way Australians like to surf our waves.
Doha offers a very historical and cultural perspective on this part of the world with two wonderful museums – The National Museum of Qatar (you could easily spend half a day or more here) and the Museum of Islamic Art with an extensive display spanning 1400 years of history in the Middle East. The National Museum is a beautiful, architect-designed museum (see image left below) whose design is based on the crystal clusters of sand and gypsum called the ‘Desert Rose’, found in some desert areas of Qatar.
The population of Qatar is approximately 3 million but only 300,000 of these are Qatari citizens. The rest are expatriates from around the world and so the common language is English. The Qatari citizens either don’t have to work or work in government positions. I found everyone very friendly and helpful. The Emir is only 38 years old and a very much loved leader. Another plus for this lovely city is that it is a very safe city with little or no crime. You often see these heritage police officers riding their beautiful Arab horses through Souq Waqif.
In earlier years pearls were the main source of income for the country but the introduction of cultured pearls destroyed this industry. They were saved by the discovery of oil and gas around 1950 although gas is the mainstay of their incredible wealth which appears to be inexhaustible
The city is now preparing for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. They are busy building stadiums at the moment and all stadiums will be within the city and allow spectators to see a huge number of games within the one precinct.
Above, our group of hardy travellers!