Tag Archives: Qatar

Photo-story: Qatar’s Abandoned Fishing Villages Al Jumale, Al Areesh and Al Khuwair

 

In the past thirty years, Qatar’s skyline has been in a constant race, with the skyskrapers competing between each other for first prize in height and elaborate nightime displays of flashing lights and decorations. It is difficult to believe that only a short time ago, the Sheraton hotel was the tallest building in the capital city. Indeed, there are residents in Doha that can still tell you about a time before all the skyscrapers existed, when Qatar was better known for its pearling industry than its status as a cosmopolitan city crowded with luxury hotels.

 

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While Doha’s skyline has been rocketing, many of the country’s traditional pearling and fishing villages in the north are crumbling. Abandoned in droves by those looking for the promise of wealth in gas money, driven by necessity after freshwater sources ran dry, or forced out to look for work elsewhere after Qatar’s pearling industry declined, the village architecture and location offer an insight into an earlier and more traditional way of living in Qatar that is unseen in Doha.

 

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In truth most of Qatar’s inhabitants reside in Doha, with only a small population living in suburban developments in the northern area called ‘Al Shamal’ and communities just outside of Doha in Al Wakra, or to the far west of the peninsula. Today many of these villages, like Al Jumale, Al Khuwair and Al Areesh, are now designated archaeological sites under the protection of the Qatar Museums Authority, and they continue to act as a rest stop for many people that drive up the coast to Zubarah.

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12 Hours in Doha….A Quick Guide

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As one of the main stopovers for connecting flights to Asia, Doha International Airport receives more than 15 million passengers a year through its terminals. Whilst many people simply wander through the airport, waiting for their flight, few realise that Doha is an excellent stop-point to rest and recharge before continuing on to your next destination.

8:30am: Throw some shapes at Yama Yoga Studios.

Start the day with a healthy kick (not to mention some breathtaking views of the Doha skyline) with a yoga class at the Asas East Tower, first floor. Classes are filled with mixed ability and drop-in, so whether you are a beginner or can calmly twist your body into a pretzel, everyone is welcome. For pricing and class schedule times, please look at their website: http://www.yamayogastudios.com/.

11:00am: Scoff cakes and other delicacies at La Cigale Traiteur

If morning stretches didn’t wake you, a coffee and pastry at the five-star La Cigale Traiteur will liven your senses. Part bakery, part cafe, La Cigale Traiteur features a mixture of European and Lebanese luxury favourites like caviar, wooden oven-cooked pizza and saj bread. However, the real reason to visit this cafe is for its sweets and delicacies, with more than 70 different types of chocolate on sale, alongside counters filled with dozens of cakes and pastries, Arabic sweets, artisan cheeses and ice cream. Even if your wallet can’t stretch for a slice, a window shop alone is a feast for the eyes. For more information, please see their website at: http://www.lacigalehotel.com/Dining-Entertainment/Restaurants/La-Cigale-Traiteur.

 12:00pm: Visit the Museum of Islamic Art. 

Designed by I.M. Pei, the architect behind the glass pyramid of the Louvre, the Museum of Islamic Art sits on its own island just off the Corniche against the dramatic backdrop of the Doha business district skyline. It’s combination of modern design with Arabic architectural motifs is enough to attract visitors alone, but inside are stunning artefacts from the Islamic world between the 7th and 19th centuries. Necklaces containing rubies and emeralds the size of nuggets are the biggest attractions, but the museum’s varied collection of astrolabes and calligraphic art are well worth a look. When you tire looking at eye-wateringly expensive artefacts, have a wander around the MIA Park, which provides panoramic views of the Corniche along with activities like cycling and paddle boat rides. For opening times and maps of the exhibits, please see their website at http://www.mia.org.qa/en/.

 

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3:00pm Explore the Katara cultural village / Wander around The Pearl

Continue your afternoon of cultural immersion with a short taxi ride to the Katara Valley of Cultures. Here artists around the world partake in Doha’s Artist-in-Residence programme and exhibitions featuring everything from antiquated scientific instruments to stamps are on display, many for free entry. In the evening musical performances from the Doha Philharmonic Orchestra and dramas are staged in the amphitheatre, and during religious holiday the beach boardwalk becomes a bustling place. For more information and schedule of current exhibitions, take a look at their website at http://www.katara.net/english/.

If the Museum of Islamic Art was enough to pique your curiosity on Islamic art, head to The Pearl and partake in one of Qatar’s favourite hobbies, shopping. The area is packed with high-end European designers and brands, together with Arabian favourites. Even if your budget can’t stretch into the five figures for a spending spree, the area is a picturesque spot to rest and relax and enjoy the surrounding habour views of yachts and mega-mansions.

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6:00pm Eat for a good cause at K108

When a restaurant calls itself ‘Yum Yum’  there is additional pressure to live up to the name; fortunately Yum Yum at the K108 hotel does just that, and at an affordable price too. Head chef Hugo Coudurier, who previously worked at the Michelin-starred Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris, offers a frequently-rotating menu of twelve European and Asian dishes, with examples including lobster ravioli and beef bourginon. Main courses cost approximately 65 Qatari riyals, and 100% of the restaurant and hotel’s profits are donated to charity projects in South Asia. The restaurant can be popular in the evenings, so book ahead to avoid disappointment. http://www.k108hotel.com/index.html

8:00pm Get lost in the Souq Waqif 

Qatari tourism is synonymous with the Souq Waqif; while Bedouin have been trading at the market square for the past hundred years, the buildings you see today are all modern additions built to bring the souq back to its former glory. While the souq is a ghost town in the day, at night it comes alive with locals and tourists alike sipping tea on the balconies of restaurants or chatting away in the shisha lounges. The spice and coffee stalls are worth a wander and stop for souvenirs, and while the falcon section is not open in the evenings, it is possible to see the birds of prey through the windows. Getting lost is half the fun however, and it is in the innermost side streets that you will find a bargain. Luckily, the Souq Waqif is only a short taxi ride back to Doha International Airport. http://www.qatartourism.gov.qa/en-us/thingstodo/shopping/souqs.aspx

 

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Qatar’s Own Hollywood: Film City

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With my recent trip to Qatar fast-approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous travels to the region. About how they will look now, whether they are even still there, and anticipation of the new sites I will visit soon. One of the sites that stuck out for me than others was my trip to Film City; it had all the elements of an adventure. Crossing a beautiful but barren canyon, archaeological remnants, rare animals, and a beautiful city that lay hidden in the desert- what more could you ask for?  Find out more about my trip below, an excerpt from a feature I wrote for Vagabondish magazine:

California is not the only place to see film stars and movie sets these days. Qatar has its own piece of Hollywood set in the most unlikely of places. Deep in the desert of the Zekreet peninsula, hidden behind a canyon, lays Film City, one of Qatar’s truly bizarre sites!

As we travelled along a dirt path through a national park housing those elusive ostrich and oryx, the environment gently morphed into something altogether different. The brown pebbly surface of the desert transformed into a pale cream sand, with the waves of the Zekreet Peninsula shoreline twinkling in the backdrop. What was most remarkable however, were the series of ridges we now drove through, forming a miniature canyon.
Read more at http://www.vagabondish.com/qatars-own-hollywood-film-city/#15mY4lr5KjetbVpv.99

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Qatar’s Zubarah Site is Appointed UNESCO World Heritage List

Qatar is a country that holds a dear place in my heart. As a graduate I spent months driving all over the country to record and protect its heritage and eventually grew fond of its desert landscapes, and of its ability to spring archaeological sites upon visitors in the most unexpected of circumstances.  When I read that Qatar’s archaeological site Zubarah had been inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List, I felt this appointment was well-deserved. Having visited Zubarah several times and learnt about its history in relation to the rest of the world, the rarity of sites like this meant it urgently needed further investigation and preservation for the posterity of history. I was fortunate enough to visit Zubarah back in 2011, and you can read about my experiences visiting the site at Vagabondish magazine.

A two hour drive north from Qatar’s capital city Doha brings you into a region known as Al Shamal, where the clay-hued fort of Zubarah suddenly rises out of the horizon against the backdrop of the flat desert landscape. Once a central role in the pearl-diving industry from 1811 to the early 19th century, Zubarah faced a steady decline following the introduction of the Japanese pearling industry and the discovery of oil off of Qatar’s coast until the site was eventually abandoned in the early 1900s. Today archaeologists are excavating a small portion of the Zubarah town, and have already discovered an expansive complex of houses, streets, and mosques that denote a thriving trade industry. Over the decades a natural blanket of sand blown from the coastal winds has perfectly preserved this area, allowing archaeologists and historians alike a rare archaeological glimpse into the everyday life of the Bedouin who called Zubarah home. The fort however continues to stand resolute against time and weather erosion, a testament to Qatar’s early trade links stretching across the Indian Ocean, Western Asia, and Arabia.

With Zubarah making it onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in 2022, this country’s tourism is set to rocket in the next few years. Now is a better time than ever to beat the crowds and explore the country’s heritage for yourself while it is still quiet. Zubarah is only one of Qatar’s treasures, there are still several listed below waiting to be explored…

 

 

Qatar's Own Hollywood: Film City

Qatar’s Own Hollywood: Film City

 

Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings

Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings

 

 

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