A dynamic modern country built on the foundations of its deep cultural roots, Qatar is a feast for the senses, offering a remarkable range of sights and experiences.
Qatar’s largest area of sand desert lies to the south-west of the capital, with its high dunes a major attraction both for recreational safaris or simply to enjoy the spectacular landscape. The desert scenery constantly changes depending on the time of day and light conditions. The breath-taking colours of sunrise and sunset are especially dramatic and the clear night skies offer a rare treat for stargazers. Khor Al Adaid, the impressive ‘Inland Sea’, lies to the south of this expanse of desert.
Ras Abrouq Rock Formations
Qatar’s west coast offers plenty of interest. The area around Zikrit and the isolated Ras Abrouq peninsula is noted for its unspoiled sandy beaches, wild deer reserve and haunting lunar-like landscape of limestone rock formations sculpted by the wind into mushroom shapes.
Dahl Al Misfir Cave
Gypsum deposits in the centre of the peninsula have given rise to the geological phenomena known as ‘desert roses’ (clusters of roughly rose-shaped gypsum crystals) and, most notably, the 40m deep cave at Dhal Al Misfir, formed largely of fibrous gypsum that sometimes gives off a faint, moon-like phosphorescent glow.
Al Thakira Mangroves
Al Thakira mangroves, lying just north of the city of Al Khor, present a large expanse of natural greenery in sharp contrast to the surrounding desert landscape. This area of vegetation with its own ecosystem is notable for attracting resident and migrating bird life, including flamingos and herons. A great way to explore the mangroves is by kayak, available from several tour operators and specialist companies.
The Bounty of Qatar's Seas
With more than 560 km. of coastline, Qatar has always looked to the sea. While the harsh conditions of the desert interior afforded few opportunities for agriculture, Qataris have always settled around the peninsula’s coast where the shallow waters of the Gulf provided a reliable natural bounty of teeming marine life. For generations, fishing and pearl diving provided the mainstay of life for many communities and, while the latter succumbed to the advent of cultured pearls in the 1930s, Qatari waters remain rich in fish life.
• Qatar became an independent sovereign state in 1971
• Qatar is an Islamic country, tolerant towards other religions. A modern and cosmopolitan society, its culture is deeply rooted in the Bedouin and pearl diving traditions of the Arabian Peninsula
• Qatar is one of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the others being Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, and is a member of many other international bodies such as the United Nations, OPEC and the Arab League
• The Emir of Qatar is His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who took over from his father, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in June 2013
• The Emir appoints a Council of Ministers, the country’s supreme executive authority. Laws and decrees proposed by the Council of Ministers are referred to the Majlis Al Shura (consultative council) for discussion and ratified by the Emir
• Qatar has the world’s third largest proven reserves of natural gas, exceeding 25 trillion cubic meters (or about 13% of the world’s total). Its proven oil reserves stand in excess of 25 billion barrels, equivalent to some 60 years’ supply at current production levels
• The nation tops the rankings of the world’s richest countries in terms of per capita GDP (c $100,000)
• Qatar has won the rights to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup and has embarked on a major program of hotel and infrastructure development, including the construction of stadium facilities and the Qatar Metro system (Qatar Rail), in preparation for this showpiece event
Qatar provides habitat for a varied wildlife, from birds and reptiles to the Arabian Oryx Qatar’s desert climate limits the variety of flora and fauna though, after any rain, the desert blooms with greenery. Qatar’s national animal, the Arabian Oryx, was extinct by the 1970s, but an ongoing breeding programm has led to its reintroduction since 1980. Other creatures occasionally encountered in the wild include foxes, jerboas, reptiles and various resident and migratory bird species, including flamingos. The largest native mammal is the dugong, found in waters around the coast.