QATAR – The perfect 4 (or 5) day Qatar itinerary and layover tips

Qatar - Doha
Qatar - Doha

Summary: A family holiday during Christmas time to first Dubai for some days to explore this region, from there to Bahrain for a few days to explore that small country, and last to Qatar for a few days to see this country in detail. We ended again for a few days in Dubai.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: Al Zubarah Archaeological Site (see all UNESCO sites here)

Day 1 through 8 – Dubai, Bahrain

See here:
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Dubai (2012.12.23 – 2013.01.07)

BAHRAIN – Al Manamah and rest of country (2012.12.23 – 2013.01.07)

Day 9 – Qatar Arrival & Doha

Pickup our car from the airport and drove to our Intercontinental Beach resort. Warning: do NOT speed in Qatar, they have camera’s everywhere and we got like 9 speeding tickets in the 2 days we drove worth around 3000 USD 🙁 Do not speed anywhere in the middle east its expensive! Further, in general in the middle east, Google Maps is your friend! As there are many non official roads, best to just drive straight towards the location; you find your way one way or another.

We drove to the souk in Doha, and checked it out, the mosque, fort (no entrance possible), and the cornice with beautiful view of the skyline of modern Doha and dows passing by. One interesting building 🙂 the “dildo” building. Only after it was build the complaints came in this Islamite country. Back to our hotel by dinner time as it was new years eve, a nice celebration with a great banquet!

Day 10 – Qatar

Ok; driving yourself in Qatar is OK, but, getting into the sights……… they are all fenced, and you need government permission or what ever or a guide. So after a few sights we kind of gave up for today. At the end of the day we drove to the respective government building but nobody could help us. So, we hired a local guide with car the next day (see day 11) and we saw all sights still. He just drove around the fences too; and said we could have done it ourselves. Strange! The sign below is from one site; this was on all fences about every so many hundred meters.

Qatar - Sign on Fences at Sights
Qatar – Sign on Fences at Sights

The island is not big, we wanted today to explore the east cost up to the most northern point and then back to the hotel. First stop had to be stone age remains at Al-Wsel (location: N 25° 30′ 05.5″ E 51° 28′ 43.6″), but seemed a 50 km by 50km or so site was fenced off, not for the sight, but for construction works. It’s located off-road about 27km north of Doha opposite of the motor cross circuit. The guard at the gate tried to help us and called the supervisor but he was not at the site, if he was, we could have entered. No luck this time.

We had on the list to go to “Purple Island” it was an extra place to see as not top priority but as the above site didn’t work we had time left. It’s an island in the middle of the mangroves, a very nice scenic area. The exact location for GPS is: 25°41’35.2″N 51°32’59.5″E. It can be reached by normal car, a 4×4 is more comfortable. One can watch nature, crabs, birds and more.

From here, the idea was to drive north. Do this through Simsimah town (the road through these coordinates: 25°46’49.0″N 51°24’11.9″E). We drove the other way north more along the coast but you end up at Ras Laffan Industrial City and you cannot get in or through it as this is the liquefied gas plant of Qatar. So you have to go back. Anyhow, we went back and got to the sight of Al Jassasiya where you find rock carvings made by people who were waiting for fishing boats to return to the rocks and take them (located at N 25° 57′ 07.7″ E 51° 24′ 22.8″). At the place we found the nice sign above, the gate was open, but we didn’t know what would happen if trespassing and the laws are quite hard in Qatar so we decided to not go today (see report on Day 11, it’s worth it!). Next plan to visit deserted coastal fishing towns: Al-areesh (N 26° 03′ 03.42″ E 51° 03′ 24.57″), al-jemail (N 26° 05′ 46.89″ E 51° 09′ 21.94″ ), al-khuwair (N 26° 04′ 07.38″ E 51° 05′ 02.30″)  was the next plan, also here the signs above (we return next day).

Only thing left of the list was Al Zubarah, UNESCO Site, this we visited mainly the fort and the rest from a distance (no guide available at the moment of visit everything closed).  The fort (location: N 25° 58′ 27.4″ E 51° 01′ 39″) is very nicely restored. The whole site is a town that was taken by the sand and now partly excavated. The only thing to see was the fort and the remainder only at a distance, no tourist facilities what-so-ever.  After the visit we drove to the ministry who handles permits to visit sites, no luck, we then just asked the hotel to get us a guide for the next day.

Day 11 – Qatar

Today we drove kind of what we did not see the day before plus some more things. First stop the oldest mosque in Qatar. From here we drove northward’s to the rock carvings. Here you find rock carvings of fish, ships and other marine related motives. It’s said these where made by fisherman waiting for the tide to turn before they were picked up again by boats from the rocks. Some very fine examples can be found here. It’s located at these coordinates: N 25° 57′ 07.7″ E 51° 24′ 22.8″; just make sure you don’t want to drive towards the “oil city” as you cannot pass it, take the highway running south to north and then take a right turn towards these.

From here we drove through the most northern village Madinat Al Shamal (where they have a stadium in the shape of a fort) towards the east coast to visit one of the old deserted fishermen villages. We opted for Al Jemail which is the best one to visited, located at N 26° 05′ 46.89″ E 51° 09′ 21.94″. These villages are totally deserted and you get a good feeling on how fishermen lived in the old days. Big parts are ruins but still parts are quite complete. As for the village we visited, drive along the fence towards the sea (on the left of the village) and you can drive around the fence near the water.

From here we had some bigger drive through a nice unpaved road south to the Brouq Nature Reserve. Where a nice sign said “do not come close to the gazelles and ostrich’s and their nest, this will be subject to legal questioning”.  What would “legal questioning” be in Qatar? Don’t try it.  You can enter the reserve here: 25°28’00.0″N 50°53’23.9″E with a 4×4, you could do without 4×4 but you would not be able to get everywhere. You can see here great sand stone formations formed by wind and water. Further inland there is a “new” fort and some small “old” houses. There are actually used for filming and not that old. But it’s great to see how people lived here in the desserts long ago. From here we drove back to the highway and a bit more south-east until you cannot go further due to security control entering the oil area. From there we drove back to our hotel in Doha.

Day 12 – Qatar & Departure

Last day wanted to do one more thing: Musfur Sinkhole located (25.466670, 50.889981). It’s a magnificent sinkhole in the middle of the dessert. Just check out the photo’s. On our way back we drove along the Doha Games monument from 2006 which now houses a hotel. We had our Qatar Airlines flight to Dubai later that afternoon. All-in we had a great holiday in Qatar where we saw most if not all what we wanted to see and great time on the beaches too in between.

Day 13 through 16 – Dubai

See post: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Dubai (2012.12.23 – 2013.01.07)