What's better than one holiday? Two holidays! Not only does a stopover add to your overall enjoyment, but it also helps to break up those tiresome long-haul flights.
As travellers begin to move around the globe without restriction in a post pandemic world, new research indicates Aussies are seeking adventures in countries they’ve yet to explore. A recent study by YouGov and commissioned by ING, revealed 51 per cent of people want to visit a new country (an increase from 35% in 2021).
Located at the crossroads of East and West, Qatar remains an undiscovered yet perfectly primed major stopover destination – and perfect for those looking to ‘double dip’ on their trip.
Qatar may be small in size, but the Middle Eastern nation sure is packed with rich Arabian culture and heritage, authentic food, futuristic art and architecture, as well as land and water activities.
To make things even sweeter – Travellers set to transit through Qatar can take advantage of the world’s best value stopover packages from as little as $20 per person per night, launched by Qatar Airways and Discover Qatar, and supported by Qatar Tourism.
Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Qatar that can make your dream travel experience even better.
Visitors who value safety can be rest assured that Qatar has very low crime rates and security issues. In 2022, consistent with the past few years, the Numbeo Crime Index has ranked Qatar as the safest country in the world.
While the current state of Qatar is, in some respects, a modern creation, references to the peninsula date back to ancient history, when Roman writer Pliny the Elder referred to the inhabitants as “Catharrei” after a local settlement. Ptolemy, the ancient mathematician, astronomer and geographer, then produced a map with the peninsula labelled “Catara”, which is on display at Qatar National Library. This spelling stuck for centuries before the first references to “Katara” and “Qatar” appeared in the journals of Portuguese explorers.
A fascinating heritage
The first evidence of sustained human settlement in Qatar dates back to the sixth millennium BCE. Bronze Age sites in Qatar are concentrated in the Al Khor region, where the island of Jazirat bin Ghannem, known as “Purple Island”, was a centre in the purple dye trade. The industry thrived in the second millennium BCE, when purple was the supremely expensive royal Roman colour worn by the emperor. The dye was extracted from large quantities of marine snails. Today, visitors can go kayaking through the island’s mangrove forest and stand atop the rocks for a splendid sunset view.
Qatar is one of the few places in the world where the desert meets the sea. The dunes are at their most spectacular out by Khor Al Adaid, also known as the Inland Sea, where a unique ecosystem has developed, with flamingos, turtles, foxes and the country’s national animal, the Arabian Oryx. Visitors can book a trip to the Inland Sea for a small fee and also include exhilarating dune bashing in a 4x4 to get there off the beaten path.
Qatar hosts one of the largest gatherings of whale sharks on the planet. The sharks appear from April to September off the northeast coast of the Al Shaheen restricted marine zone. These majestic aquatic creatures, often referred to as ‘gentle giants’, have been endangered since 2002. The largest fish in the world, whale sharks can grow up to 20 metres long.
Sustainability has been embedded into major new projects in Qatar since the FIFA World Cup bid was won over a decade ago. In central Doha you will find the café-lined streets of Msheireb, the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. At the heart of the World Cup will be the $45-billion city of the future, Lusail City, the largest single sustainable development to be undertaken in Qatar, with a host of interesting buildings (the pinnacle of which is the soon-to-open Katara Towers) and innovative eco-friendly ideas. The stadiums built for the football have sustainability at their core and it will be a carbon-neutral event. Stadium 974, for example, is built from repurposed ocean shipping containers and will be completely dismantled after the tournament ends.
Sports and public health are a top priority in Qatar and there is even a national bank holiday every February to mark National Sports Day. The Olympic Cycling Track is a testament to this, which gained a Guinness World Record in 2020 for the longest continuous cycle path in the world, at 33 kilometres long.
Easy to enter
Thanks to a host of visa facilitation measures Qatar is now one of the most accessible countries in the Middle East. Visitors from all around the world, from over 95 countries, can enter Qatar either visa-free or by filling out simple online applications, depending on the passport they carry. Visitors can check the requirements through the simple visa checker here: https://www.visitqatar.qa/en/plan-your-trip/visas
The incredible hospitality visitors receive on a trip to Qatar begins on their flight over and continues at the airport arrivals. Qatar Airways was awarded the ‘World’s best airline’ and Hamad International Airport was granted the ‘Best airport in the world’ at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2021. Travellers set to transit through Qatar can take advantage of the world’s best value stopover packages, launched by Qatar Airways and Discover Qatar, and supported by Qatar Tourism.
Adding to Qatar’s growing family and theme park offering, Quest Doha – which launched in Doha Oasis in July 2021 – has set two Guinness World Records for the ‘Tallest Indoor Rollercoaster’ and the ‘Tallest Indoor Drop Tower Ride’. The park is divided into three “time-dimensions”: Oryxville, exploring the ancient Arabian past; City of Imagination, a reflection of the present; and Gravity, a state-of-the-art futuristic spaceport.
For the latest travel tips to plan your trip, please visit the Qatar Tourism website.