Updated April 2020.
If you’ve been following along on Facebook and Instagram, you know I just got home from an epic trip to Doha, Qatar. I got a lot of shocked and quizzical looks when I started telling people I planned to visit Qatar (and in summer, no less!), so I was inspired to write a post exclusively about Qatar–a little history, a little clarification, a little geography. I’ll be posting soon about useful things to know before you go, but for now, let’s just find Qatar!
Where is Qatar?
Qatar is a small country in the Middle East. It is a peninsula on the northeast side of the Arabian Peninsula, jutting out into the Arabian Sea. Is is due south and across the water from Iran, and it shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia. Qatar has a population of 2.6 million people and is just under 4,500 square miles in land area. Don’t be fooled by its physical size, however, because Qatar’s per capita GDP is the highest in the world!
Keep reading: Ultimate Guide to Solo Female Travel in Qatar
Do Women Have Any Rights?
This is a question that concerned many people before my trip, especially when they found out I’d be traveling there alone! (I was meeting family friends there, so I really wouldn’t be alone exactly.) But as far as women’s rights go, Qatar is the first Arab country in the Persian Gulf to give women the right to vote (on March 8, 1999–on International Women’s Day). Women are allowed to drive, and they are not required to cover their faces, though some choose to do so. And really, women can wear whatever they want! I saw women wearing everything from sleeveless sundresses to shorts and t-shirts. Something that surprised me is that women can even choose to divorce their husbands if they are mistreated.
As a woman and a guest in the country, I felt the need to be covered from my shoulders down to at least my elbows, and at least down past my knees. Longer is better, but my friends there told me I did not have to cover completely, or wear an abaya or hijab (more on those in a later post). From a heat perspective, I would have been far more comfortable in a sundress. From a cultural, self-awareness perspective, I was much more comfortable being covered!
Travel should not be selfish. It’s not for me to decide what’s “right” or what “should be” true wherever I am in the world. I’m a guest in any country I choose to visit, and as a guest, I should respect my hosts, not offend them or try to make the trip all about showing the world what it’s missing by flaunting my freedom to dress how I think I “should” be able to dress.
Incidentally, Qatari men traditionally dress conservatively as well!
Keep Reading: What Men and Women Wear in the Middle East
Is it Dangerous?
According to The Peninsula, Qatar’s daily newspaper, Qatar has the lowest crime rate in the Middle East, and it has the seventh lowest crime rate in the world! So no, I would not call Qatar dangerous! The biggest danger you may face is heat stroke, so stay hydrated, stay shaded, and during the hottest part of the day, stay inside with air conditioning! Most of the people in Qatar sleep in, take naps during the day, and do their outdoor activities when the sun goes down!
Be Smart, Not Scared: How to Travel Safely
People have been living in what is now the country of Qatar basically forever. The land has been ruled by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, and Great Britain before achieving independence in September 1971. Originally Qatari industry centered around pearl diving and fishing, but after they found oil here in the 1960s, Qatar began its ascent into prosperity! Now you’ll find an ultra-modern city with high-end retail shops, malls on every corner, skyscrapers, and a place on the world’s stage for the FIFA World Cup in 2022! But all of the modern features of Qatar are complemented with nods to historic Arabian architecture. And as I mentioned before, both men and women still choose to wear traditional clothing much of the time
Read on: 10 Things to Do in Qatar
What’s There to See and Do?
Turns out, this tiny country packs a lot of fun, culture, and activities! Here are just a few things that attract travelers from all corners of the world. Stay tuned in the next several weeks for much, much more!
The Souq Waqif is a centuries-old, open-air market popular with locals and tourists alike! Recommended visiting hours in summer are 7:00pm-11:00pm to beat the heat. There are also highly air conditioned indoor shopping malls to choose from for cooler daytime fun.
Museums and Historic Sites
Not a shopper? Check out Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art, explore the Katara Cultural Village for a taste of old Qatar, or walk through the Al Zubara Fort for a meticulously restored example of an 18th century settlement. The fort is on the site of one of the most important pearl diving locations on the Persian Gulf.
The Pearl Qatar
Want a luxurious way to spend an entire day? Head over to the Pearl Qatar for shopping, luxury resorts, 5-star restaurants, and lovely scenery overlooking the Persian Gulf! Pick up some ice cream while you’re there to stay cool any time of year.
The best way to cool off? Go in the water! You can join a fishing trip, go kayaking, and more!
Desert Day Trip
You’re in the desert–embrace it! A driver can take you out on a dune tour, or perhaps riding a camel is more your speed.
Do you still have questions about Qatar? Comment below so I can answer! And check out my Qatar Page all this month for more posts about my trip!
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