Qatar Guide: Discovering Qatar’s cultural sites and other treasures

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(Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

By Sarah Schroeder

Whoever said Qatar doesn’t have a rich culture? The first humans occupied the peninsula 50,000 years ago, and whose tools we can find in museums today. This is long before Qatar’s colonization, the creation of the modern state as we know it today, and the discovery of oil and gas. Qatar experienced its introduction to Islam, felt the influence of different empires, and became the focus of much of the pearl trade of the 8th century.

Today, the Gulf country is as diverse as a place could possibly be, with non-nationals outnumbering the locals. And, if there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that culture is never static – it’s always in motion! So it’s only natural that Qatar, with its rapid development in social life, education, infrastructure, and political spheres, has a culture that is ever-changing and dynamic. Rather than preserving a fixed past, dedication to nurturing an active, multifaceted, and live culture with art, history, and future endeavours is the essence of Qatar’s culture. 

But where do you find such cultural spaces in Qatar? The answer is everywhere – as we are surrounded by treasures of culture! On your next trip to the country, the following 10 cultural sites are not to be missed! If you live in Qatar – enrich your understanding and knowledge, and set a different destination every weekend for the next 10 weeks!

 

(Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

1.  Al Zubarah

The first cultural site is one of the most popular destinations. Al Zubarah consists of the restored Zubarah Fort, which has seen many battles and now houses a small museum. A 60-hectare archeological site, Al Zubarah was one of the most important pearl-diving hubs and is now one of the best preserved settlements from the 18th century in the Gulf region. Did you know that Al Zubarah is a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Get directions here.

(Photo credit: www.designcurial.com)

2. Msheireb Museum

The Msheirib Museum in the heart of Doha revives four of Doha’s heritage houses, which were newly restored into modern museums. In this collection of museums, you’ll learn about aspects of Qatar’s social and cultural life with its past and future, that you’ve never even known about. Take guided tours, or explore the museum on your own! 

Get directions here.

 

(Photo credit: Qatar Museums)

3.  Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings

This site is north of Doha, close to Al Shamal, and is always open. There are strict rules to be followed when going here since it’s under protection. You can’t take anything from the site, nor leaving anything – including rubbish – behind. Seems like a lot of restrictions, but here’s why you should go – there are around 874 rare rock carvings called petroglyphs. They resemble patterns, ships, animals, and plants. While many theories attempt to explain these carvings, they still remain a mystery to historians and archaeologists until today. 

UTM coordinates: N 25° 57' 07.7" E 51° 24' 22.8".

 

(Photo credit: Qatar Museums)

4.  Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

A new space for culture was created in Qatar Foundation’s Education City. Mathaf literally means ‘museum’ and features modern Arab art. Popular regional artists contribute to exhibits and collections, which aid in Qatar’s cultivation of a capital of art in the Middle East. Here, art often tells the tales of personal identity, gender relations, regional conflict, diaspora, artistic expression, and great emotions.

Get directions here.

 

(Al Koot Fort. Photo credit: Wikimedia)

5.  Al Koot Fort and Al Wajba Fort

Every fort in Qatar has something unique to offer. Al Koot Fort, also known as Doha Fort, has one of the best views in the whole country. The fort, located next to Souq Waqif, was built in 1927 as a police station and jail. What’s especially interesting is the mosque in the courtyard of the fort, which has neither walls nor a roof.

(Al Wajba Fort. Photo credit: www.thelifepile.com)

Al Wajba Fort is a lot older, built sometime between the late 18th and the early 19th century. It witnessed an important battle in which Qatar defeated the Ottomans in 1893. 

Get directions to Al Koot Fort here.

Get directions to Al Wajba Fort here.

 

(Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

6.  Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif is where old meets new, where tradition meets new craftsmanship. Workshops for traditional Qatari clothing and leather accessories are next to extensive spice markets, hospitals for falcons, and extravagant new jewelry shops. This is a place where you can get close to Qatar’s history, taste the Qatari cuisine in local restaurants, and experience the meeting and mingling of people of diverse backgrounds.

Get directions here.

(Photo credit: www.youvictours.com)

7.  Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

For a glimpse into Qatari life before the discovery of oil, you should visit the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. From everyday household items and weaponry, to artefacts, ceramics, Islamic art, embroidery, and vintage cars, this museum has got it all. The treasures you can find here capture a sense of nostalgia and pride.

Get directions here.

 

(Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

8.  Barzan Towers

Following the Shamal Road to Umm Salal Mohammed in the north of Doha, lie the Barzan Towers. The fort is always open to visitors and is worth a trip. The Barzan Towers were utilized as a lookout in more than one way; some say it was for protection, to watch pearl-divers or water sources, or it might have been a place to observe the moon for the lunar calendar. No wonder; Barzan can be translated to ‘the high place’!

Get directions here.

 

(Photo credit: www.traveltourxp.com)

9.  Al Wakra Museum

Another museum we love is the Al Wakra Museum. This museum is located in another traditional fort in a former fishing hub. A trip to this cultural destination will shed some light on traditional architecture and the Qatari fishing lifestyle. This is an invaluable site for you and your family!

Get directions here.

(Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

10. Katara

The last destination has got to make this list – Katara! The Cultural Village of Doha is a modern, daring, and stunning take on traditional architecture, amphitheatres, and mosques. Young local artists are featured here, opulent National Day celebrations take place, international cuisine and festivals come together, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra performs, lectures by Islamic scholars are given, and old Arab postage stamps are exhibited.

Get directions here.

How many of these places have you made it to? What do you think defines Qatar’s cultural scene? Did we leave any vital sites out of this list? Let us know what Qatari culture looks like to you!  We at ILQ think we, in the community, are all part of the lively and vibrant culture of this country!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments! And also don’t forget to give us a like and a share – you know it keeps us going!