State of Qatar
4 July 2014 02:27 pm
A rich country with the highest human
development in the Arab World
Text and Photographs by Shehara Rizly
A sovereign Arab emirate, located in Western Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. The south of the land borders Sa udi Arabia with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf. A strait in the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island kingdom of Ba hrain.
Travel essentials that you should know
Tourist visas are available for citizens of 33 countries. Tourist entry visa is available on arrival for residents of the GCC states. There are two types of business visas – one is the 72 hour visa on arrival whereas the other type you
need to apply in advance but can be extended according to your requirement. Expatriates with family status can sponsor parents and siblings for a family visit visa. You can apply for the visa online through their website but you have to book through Qatar Airways and stay in their partner hotels. For those who have family in Doha, they could apply through the embassy in Qatar and within two or three working days the visa will be granted and you can fly on any airline of your preference. There are direct flights from Colombo to Doha as well as connecting flights via Oman or Dubai (UAE).
Both men and women are expected to wear modest clothing. Tops should cover the shoulders and upper arms and skirts or shorts should fall just below the knee. Women are not obliged to cover their hair. Swimsuits and beach wear are acceptable at the hotels but not appropriate to show too much skin in order to respect the Qataris and Muslims. All ladies and gents are well groomed and well dressed whether they are natives or foreigners. There is a wide choice of designer wear in most of the malls in different areas.
Arabic is the official language of Qatar, with Qatari Arabic the local dialect. As there are more foreigners English takes second place whilst Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu, Tamil, Nepali, French etc follows thereafter.
Best time to travel to Qatar:
The coolest months are December, January and February sometimes it goes up till March. The best time to travel would be between October to April when the temperature dips. During these months you can enjoy and explore outdoor activities in Qatar like their beaches, parks, dunes, fishing, racing and equestrian club activities, golf, camel racing, drag racing and so many others. The high temperatures coupled with a 90% high humidity will restrict most of the outdoor activities especially in the months of July-August (Summer) but you can find plenty to do indoors as they have some well fitted activities to be enjoyed by the whole family.
Getting around the state of Qatar
You have many options to get around the city and the suburbs. In Sri Lanka there are many travel agents that could assist you in providing package deals that would include a taxi or coach service. Taxi metre starts running (approx) from QR 4 (US$ 1.09) per kilometer within Doha city and QR 1.80(US$0.49) outside Doha. Generally the taxi fare from airport to any destination in Doha will not exceed QR 25 (US$7). Limousines have a fixed charge starting
from QR 20 (US$ 5.40). If you wish to drive around on your own you can rent your own car but you must have a valid international driving license up to seven days from your date of arrival or you can apply for a temporary
driving license at the traffic department of the Ministry of Interior. We were driven around to see the exciting places by our cool driver Naushard Jaffar.
Some words that may come in handy especially if you go shopping to the souq:
Your first impression
- Hello (welcome)- marhaba
- Hello (peace be upon you) - assalamo alaykum
- Good morning - sabah al khair
- Good afternoon/evening - misaa al khair
- Goodbye - ma’salaama
- How are you? - kaif halaak (m) / kaif haalik (f )
- Please min- fadlak
- Thank you - shukran
- Not at all - afwan
- Yes- na’am
- No - la
- I want a taxi - ureed taxi
- Right - yameen
- Left - yasar
- Straight ahead - alatool
- Let’s go - yalla
- Finished - khallas
- No problem - ma fi mushkila
- This/that - hatha / hathaak
- I want to buy…/I’d like areed ashtiri…/- ana areed
- The bill please fatoura, laow samaht
- Yesterday/today/ tomorrow - ams / alayum/bukra
- God willing - insha’Allah
As soon as you step out of the airport you will witness the wide highways with some of the best looking vehicles riving past you. It is left hand driving and the speed limits are between 50 to 100kmph. The number of people especially women walking on the street is minimal as most of them will be behind a wheel or will be driven to their destinations.
A Developing nation
Qatar is a developing country but very organized in the work carried out. There are traffic diversions with proper
international markings so that the drivers have a clear indication way ahead. All roads are monitored by a computer
system by the traffic police but you will never see them on the road as the people are quite disciplined in driving and
obeying the rules of the highway code.
Standard of living
The salary drawn by foreigners are tax free thereby the cost of food and other amenities are low, however, housing is quite expensive. There are apartments, housing compounds and villas available according to your budget. There are special “villages” complete with hypermarkets, shopping malls, schools, apartments, gymnasiums, eateries, leisure centers etc to provide you everything you need a few steps away from your home ground.
Facts about the country
Things to do in Qatar
- Capital and largest city Doha
- Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
- Emir H.E. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
- Prime Minister Hon. Abdullah bin Nasser bin
- Khalifa Al Thani
- Legislature Consultative Assembly
- Currency Riyal (QAR)
- Calling code +974
The list of things you can enjoy is vast. You can pick the activity you like best from different types of sports to
parks, museums, amphi theatres, cinemas, shopping malls, parks, fishing etc.
Aspire Zone is a sports paradise with a 240 hectare property that houses international standard sports stadium, medical facilities, education services, sports academy, mosque, sports club, retail areas and park land. The annual sports day celebrated around the country in February is a way to inform the public that they need to make an extra effort to be fit and healthy. They completed the equestrian festival and grand prix recently. They have a very well
maintained tennis court. We have shared some of the photographs of the sports activities.
Beaches, Parks, Fishing Trips
There are many parks covered in lush green with date palms and grass that is truly breath taking. The peninsular of Qatar has beaches galore with a 563 kilometre coastline with numerous small islets, sand bars and reefs. You can relax, enjoy a swim or any water sport with the exceptionally clean and clear blue water. You could charter a dhow or yacht either for half a day or a day at Katara beach and the Sheraton Doha.
The first ever water theme park in Qatar is built in an area of 50,000 square meters of fun. Some of the features are the wave pool – a constant flow of breaking waves, lazy river – a 200 metre long lazy river that takes you on a voyage, family pool – a spacious pool and Jacuzzi to be enjoyed by the whole family , multi lane slide – a four lane slide where you could compete with your friends and family as to who finishes fast, slide landing pool – if you prefer the long and winding slides that rushes your adrenalin this is meant for you, boomerang – for those who wish to pump up the heart with some hair raising twists this is a must try, space boat – a thrilling drop from a 20metre high tower into an open tunnel full of colourful spins that ends with a splash in a giant water bowl, Children’s activity pool – a pirate themed aquatic play area for the kiddies with multi coloured slides and giant tipping bucket and the African village – a shallow water playground that feature animal shaped slides and mushroom showers in an African village setting for kids.
There are several souqs in the state of Qatar among them are Souq Waqif, Asiery, Al Dira, Al Jabor and the Omani souq to name a few. It is always bustling with people walking around the alleys either window shopping, shopping
or enjoying their shisha with friends and family at restaurants. It is an excellent place to shop for traditional knick knacks, spices, fabrics from delicate lace to tough denim, lantern lights, stained glass, accessories, shoes, Arabic perfumes, jewellery , pottery and so many interesting artefacts.
Women’s Day at Villagio
It was quite by chance that we happen to be there on women’s day at Villagio mall. Every girl, lady or woman who walked past was handed an orange sash to depict an end to violence and human trafficking. We were also interviewed to get our opinion about the programmes they have beencarrying out so far. There was an exhibition of photographs with stories of various women who underwent violence at the hands of many perpetrators. The work carried out by
the Qatar Foundation for Human Trafficking is quite commendable as they have become a voice to many destitute women. Today, trafficking in humans has become one of important and central challenges the world is facing in the 21st century. And therefore, world countries, governmental and non-governmental bodies, organizations and institutions should strive to confront this serious challenge, and local, regional and international efforts should stand together to confront and combat it. And since the State of Qatar is part of the international community concerned with fighting this phenomena, especially with the increasing and growing awareness of the magnitude and extend of it through out the world, the State has started to address it through a variety of actions and measures on both the legislative and executive levels. The crime of trafficking in human has become an international phenomenon, and has
imposed itself on the international agenda, and became a subject for several efforts that study its dimensions, causes and means of confronting its dangers and eliminate its repercussions. The State of Qatar is not isolated from the international community. And with the growing awareness of the size and extent of the phenomenon in the entire world, the State of Qatar has started to address it through a verity of actions and measures on both the legislative and
executive levels. Qatar Foundation for combating human trafficking is an organization geared to address these issues and free them from the world phenomenon.
Villagio – an unmatched luxurious shopping experience
This was my favourite destination as you stepped in to the mall you were transported to a timelessly charming,
beautiful and romantic destination of Venice. In the centre of the shopping mall is a 150 metre long canal with a “gondola” boat service (QR10 each) to journey an experience of a lifetime. As you gently weave through the waters you can witness romantic street lamps and bright Latin days all beneath an artificial skyline that has been created with much detail. The original brainchild of this project was His Highness Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad as a walk in sports concept that eventually evolved into a fully integrated shopping complex. Named as one of world’s most luxurious malls by Forbes in 2008, currently it is one of the largest malls with over 220 stores including a large food court with a variety of restaurants and cafés serving different cuisine. The décor is so breathtakingly beautiful that you will
not feel the time pass by. It offers an unique tenant mix that incorporates general consumer brands, smaller new brands along with the most exclusive premium brands. The Via Domo section of Villagio exclusively for he discerning encompass the most exclusive retail brands in the world. All Designer names like Marks and Spenser, Mango, Gap, Dolce and Gabbana,Carolina Herrera, Elizabeth Arden, Georgio Armani, Jimmy Choo, Vincci and many
others have their latest collection of designer clothing, accessories, shoes and perfumes. It is really a perfect place to
spend time with friends and family.
Gondolania is an indoor theme park for kids that offer rides and games to children of all ages along with an
exciting Olympic sized skating rink and Qatar’s first 4D theatre. It is basically a wonderland for kids of all ages. It
includes a ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cars, horror street ride, state of the art Go Kart racing, 12 lane bowling alley, billiard tables and the latest arcade games.
The nail kiosk provides ladies with express nail care, foot massages, threading etc. The French grocery chain
Carrefour maintains its presence and often has some good deals especially towards the weekend Thursday to Saturday.
Other Shopping malls include the Centrepoint located in West bay, Lagoona mall, hyatt plaza (next to Villagio), The Mall, the Gate Mall, Al kor mall, City Center Doha, Landmark, Royal Plaza etc. Each of these malls are different and an experience that you must try out.
Qatar has the world’s third largest natural gas reserves and oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels which has fueled Qatar to become world’s richest country per capita and achieve the highest human development in the
Arab World and 36th highest globally; furthermore, it is recognized as a high income economy by the World Bank and also the 19th most peaceful country in the world. Qatar is currently undergoing transformation under the National Vision 2030, in which it expects to achieve an advanced, sustainable, and diversified economy. In order to promote tourism, Qatar has invested billions into improving infrastructure, it held the 2006 Asian Games and will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first Arab country to host either of the events. Qatar maintains close relationship with western powers - Al Udeid Air Base plays host to US and UK air forces—and eastern powers, and has often tried to bridge the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim states. Qatar has a population of around
1.8 million people, however only 250,000 of these are citizens; the majority of the population are foreigners who work and live in the state. It is also one of the few countries in which citizens do not have to pay any taxes. Qatar is a member of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Gulf Cooperation Council, OPEC and the Council of Arab Economic Unity.
Qatar - A must visit destination for your next holiday!