Qatar, located on a small peninsula that juts out from the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf, might not be the first travel destination that jumps to mind as you're planning a getaway. However, there's more to the country than meets the eye. Qatar sits on one of the largest petroleum and natural-gas reserves on the planet, and as such, it has the highest GDP per capita in the world. From its oil wealth grew a high standard of living and a highly developed system of government and social services. Qatar is also a popular destination for expatriates; in fact, out of a population of about 2.4 million people, an estimated 85% of them are foreign workers.
If you're planning to visit Qatar, there's plenty to see and do between its beaches, historical sites, art and architecture, and mouth-watering cuisine. But before you leave, make sure to purchase travel insurance or travel medical insurance. You may not think you need it, but it's best to protect yourself and your loved ones financially against any unexpected accidents, injuries, or illnesses that may occur.
If you’re an expatriate looking to make your stay in Qatar more permanent, please consider purchasing expatriate health insurance. Please be aware that Qatar requires a travel medical insurance plan for entry into the country. Since 2015, private companies have been legally obligated to pay health insurance premiums on behalf of all of their expatriate employees.
Doha, the nation's capital and largest city, is home to about 80% of the country's population between the city itself and the surrounding areas. Though small, with an area of about 50 square miles (130 square kilometers), it boasts an impressive array of five-star luxury hotels, museums, skyscrapers, and other amenities fitting for a modern metropolis.
If you're not sure where to start, try a walk or drive along the city's scenic Doha Corniche. The road runs about 4.3 miles (7 km) along a manmade bay and passes developed urban areas, palm trees, parks, and overlooks traditional Qatari dhow boats afloat in the harbor. Paths off the main road are a popular gathering spot for couples and families when the weather permits.
The Museum of Islamic Art opened in 2008 and was designed by legendary architect I.M. Pei. Rising five stories from its own manmade island, the museum contains the largest collection of Islamic art in the world gathered from three continents. The permanent collection is spread across the first two floors and holds works of art like textiles, ceramics, glass, and enamel work. The exhibits range through time and space, from India to Ottoman-era steel helmets to a collection of ancient Quranic manuscripts. Take breaks with the downstairs cafe or the award-winning IDAM Restaurant. The museum also offers free guided tours of the permanent collection on Thursdays.
The Souq Waqif is a marketplace that was renovated in 2006 using stone and wood to retain the feel of traditional Qatari architecture. Built on the grounds of an old Bedouin marketplace, its wares include everything from souvenirs (pashminas, perfumes, and spices) to handicrafts to shisha lounges and restaurants to the animal market--which offers creatures like terrapins, rabbits, kittens, lizards, and even hunting birds. Among locals, the market is more for wandering than shopping in earnest. Also within the Souq Waqif lies the Doha Fort, a historical monument originally built as a police station but since converted into a museum.
Other attractions in Doha include the Pearl-Qatar, a 4-square-kilometer artificial island in development as a residential, business, and retail community. It's distinct for its "Venice-like" system of canals spidering across the island, as well as for its public squares, plazas, and beachfront townhomes. And the Katara Cultural Village serves as the city's arts district, home to theaters, galleries, and performance venues that put on films, live shows, concerts, and other exhibitions year-round.
Al Zubarah Fort
The Al Zubarah Fort, located on Qatar’s northwest coast, is a former military fortress built in 1938. The ancient town of Zubarah and its surrounding area have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for archaeological purposes; various discovered artifacts like pearl divers’ weights, imported ceramics, fish traps, and wells form one of the most extensive and best-preserved depictions of an 18th- and 19th-century settlement in the area. Al Zubarah was once a walled city that served as one of the Gulf region’s largest pearl diving and trading centers. The fort is also home to a visitor’s center.
Khor Al Adaid
Khor Al Adaid, also known as the “Inland Sea,” is located in the southeastern corner of the country about an hour’s drive outside Doha. The sea is a UNESCO-recognized nature reserve and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. One of the few examples in the world of a sea in the middle of the desert, it has its own ecosystem supporting a wide variety of plants and animal life like ospreys, turtles, and dugongs. Visitors come for the beach and the scenic views of sand dunes meeting the shoreline. Be aware that Khor Al Adaid is inaccessible by road, so the final leg of the journey there involves crossing the rolling sand dunes on foot.
Reflecting the country’s large expatriate community, Qatari cuisine consists of a mix of flavors and dishes from the Arab world at large. The national dish is machbus, a mix of meat, rice, tomatoes, vegetables, and spices. Other staples include seafood and dates. Popular main dishes include ghuzi, roasted lamb served over rice; jareesh, crushed wheat with chicken or another kind of meat; khobes rgag, flatbread made from flour, water, and salt; and thareed, a soup or stew made up of khobes rgag, broth, vegetables, and meat. No meal is complete without a thick cup of Arabic coffee served with dates, or perhaps red tea with mint if you’re not a coffee drinker. And make sure to save room for dessert: lugimat consists of deep-fried pastry balls rolled in saffron and cardamom and drizzled with honey or syrup. Sago is a sweet gelatin pudding also served with saffron and cardamom. Given the number of luxury hotels in the city, be prepared for a five-star dining experience!
When visiting a foreign country, it’s important to be mindful of certain cultural norms and practices. As Qatar is a rather conservative Muslim country, alcohol is only served within five-star international hotels. In public, women are expected to dress modestly (covering their shoulders and knees), while men should wear long pants—or, at the very least, long shorts. Public beaches are not exempt from the modesty requirement.
Also, be aware that in Qatar, street names aren’t as commonly used as in other countries. Many locals navigate using directions and landmarks. Before taking a taxi, it would be wise to look up a generally well-known landmark near your destination in case the driver isn’t familiar with the street address.
Qatari Travel Insurance
As you’re planning your trip to Qatar, be mindful of the importance of travel insurance to a successful, stress-free vacation. There are many different varieties of plans that meet different needs. The most important of them is probably travel medical insurance, which provides emergency medical coverage for unexpected illnesses or injuries with a variety of policy maximums and deductible choices. It also covers situations like emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D), and more.
Group travel medical insurance offers similar benefits at something like a 10% discount (depending on the plan) for groups of five or more. Trip cancellation insurance will help you recoup the cost of prepaid, nonrefundable trip expenses if you have to cancel for a covered reason. And flight insurance is a type of life insurance that pays a death or dismemberment benefit to a beneficiary in the event of such an accident on a scheduled airline flight.
If you have questions or need more information, feel free to contact one of our licensed, experienced agents. Travel safe, and have fun!