I like to think of Qatar as the Unites Arab Emirates’ younger sibling who constantly fights with it. It’s another oil rich, glass and grass country. Its political situation with its surrounding gulf nations is sketchy at the best of times.
I visited Qatar as part of a cruise in 2019, so I only had one day there. Regardless of how many days you have in Qatar, from one day (like me) to a week, there’s a tonne of things to do! Souq Waqif, The National Museum of Qatar, The Museum of Islamic Art, The Pearl, Katara Cultural village, dune bashing...
I decided to do dune bashing (yes it’s as hectic as it sounds) and the Souq Waqif. I really wanted to visit the Museum of Islamic Art, but unfortunately I didn’t have time. I guess I’ll have to go back again some time.
Because I arrived into Doha, Qatar on a cruise ship, we entered the city right beside the Souq Waqif and the Museum of Islamic Art. This is across the bay from the central business district, where all the glitzy hotels and shops are. This adds to the reason why we chose to do the Souq Waqif, so we had more time to browse instead of having to travel far to get back to the ship.
Now what the feck is dune bashing you ask?? Well it’s where you get into a 4x4 and go speeding through the sand dunes in the desert, flying over the top of them and basically nearly flipping over. Basically it’s all the thrills and excitement as a rollercoaster with just a hint of extra danger.
The excursion for dune bashing that our cruise line (MSC) was offering was a bit steep at around $200 per person. So we booked a tour with www.getyourguide.com instead and paid $50 per person, for a 4 hour tour.
We were picked up by our driver at the entrance to the port, a big 4x4 white Toyota. Then we then headed off towards the inland sea and the Saudi border, passing the then under construction Al Janoub Stadium, being built as Qatar prepares to the host the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
Arriving in the desert, we were greeted by some camels and Bedouin men who gave us some traditional Arabic chai and some camels milk (it tastes like salty low fat milk). I recommend trying camels milk if you’re offered, because where else are you going to get the chance to try it?! This was followed by a short camel ride. Now - I am normally against animal riding (like elephants in Thailand or the poor donkeys in Petra) but these camels were the ones that the Bedouin men rode. They were not some poor animal chained up (cough cough… Thailand). You don’t quite realise the true height of camels until you’re up on them. They’re also not easy to get up onto or off... Balance is key!
We then loaded back into our 4x4 before taking off into the dunes of the desert. I’m not sure if there is a way I can say this that will prepare you for the thrill of dune bashing, but you’re literally flying out of your seats and been thrown about the place as you get air as you go over the tops of the dunes. We had many photo ops in the dunes and we got to see the Saudi border (my second time seeing the Saudi border, having seen it from the Jordanian side in 2019).
Souq Waqif (souq is what they call markets in the Middle East) is over a century old; however the buildings that you find there today are not the original ones as the souq fell into disrepair in the late 90's and then in 2003 it partly burned down. The Qatari government then refurbished it in 2006 in an attempt to showcase the traditional Qatari architecture style. Like all Middle Eastern souqs, there are thousands of shops here selling everything from spices to metal dinnerware, clothes and fabrics to furniture, all in tiny maze like corridors. The souq is also home to many cafes and shisha bars. Unlike other souqs, Souq Waqif also has a small number of boutique hotels if you’d rather stay closer to the older part of the city rather than the new glamorous new towers. (Tip: Never agree to the first price offered by the sellers… you can ALWAYS bargain to a lower price.)
Unfortunately for our Qatari brothers and sisters, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and any kind of homosexual act is punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment. Cross dressing is considered a sin in Qatar and will also lead to problems with the law.
In order to enjoy your time there and avoid any problems, it is best not to show any kind of affection with members of the same sex. For the record, public displays of affection between a straight couple is also frowned upon.
Do not use any dating apps such as Grindr or Tinder here. Grindr will give you a warning when you open the app in the country, basically saying they’re not liable for anything that may result from using their app in Qatar.
Try to not be over flamboyant. I know, it hurts me to even say that, but your personal safety is more important. It is best not to bring attention to yourself in anyway.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the culture, see my post on what is acceptable attire in Qatar here: https://www.the-global-gay.com/post/what-to-wear-in-the-middle-east