Qatar's popularity as an international tourist destination grew by 26% in the last year alone. Doha, its capital, has previously been viewed as a transit destination but, as visitors are finding, there are many exciting things to see and explore in this fascinating city.
1. Stellar shopping
The one thing that the Middle East is well-known for is providing a stellar retail and shopping experience. Doha is no different. One can choose from traditional or modern shopping excursions.
Souq Waqif is a highlight, popular with locals and visitors, it was recently renovated and there is plenty to explore - from perfumes and jewellery to beautiful antiques and crafts unique to the region. There are also a multitude of high-end shopping malls aimed at giving shoppers the best in luxury, including Villagio or Landmark mall.
2. Desert delights
The Singing Sand Dunes are a popular attraction in Qatar, accessible through one of the desert safari day tours on offer in Doha. Another distinctive feature is the visually striking inland sea that lies 100km south of the city and this is a perfect excuse to do some dune-bashing on the way (an adventurous drive in a 4x4 up and down the dunes).
3. The Corniche
A walk along the pretty corniche is a must, which is a 5km pathway next to the coastline and goes from the old part of the city to the new part by the Sheraton Hotel.
You can see the Museum of Islamic Art (pictured above) - also on our list of top attractions - including its stunning park. There are many incredible photo opportunites for visitors here, this includes snapping the Dhow boats when they are lit up at night, as well as the impressive Doha skyline.
The corniche is where you see everyone enjoying their free time, either running, walking or watching the world go by. An interesting aspect of the city is that a large percentage of the population are expatriates. So, there is no lack of bumping into several nationalities and cultures in daily life.
4. Museum of Islamic Art
This striking and beautiful building has some exciting and impressive exhibits. Admission is free and it will take around two hours to explore everything here, if you have longer the audio guide is recommended. Head outside to the park next to it to take in the views.
Also, remember to look for the oyster and pearl fountain close to the museum, which represents the importance of pearl diving to the region, before oil was discovered.
5. The Islamic Cultural Centre
Qatar is considered an Islamic country, ruled by a monarchy and conforms to Islamic legislature. It is also known for being one of the most peaceful places in the world, as well as one of the wealthiest, due to the booming oil industry.
The Islamic Cultural Centre, known as FANAR, is the place to come if you want to know more about Islamic culture. It is located near Souq Waqif, in the spiral mosque and there are may friendly volunteers who will happily answer your questions. There are exhibitions, tours of the centre and visits to the mosque on offer to visitors.
Visit Doha for a world class experience of the Middle East and before long you'll probably be back to explore more.
For more information please go to www.qatartourism.gov.qa