After my week in the United Arab Emirates exploring Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it was time for me to explore some more of the Gulf, starting with a four-day trip to neighbouring Qatar. Qatar ended up being one of my favourites (only after Oman) and I actually was completely blown away and impressed by the entire country. I particularly loved my time in Doha, shown to me by someone I work with with whom it was an absolute privilege and delight to explore.
I wanted to make sure I saw some of the country outside the futuristic capital city though, too, so I booked a tour through Northern Qatar through Get Your Guide to get out and see what else Qatar had to offer. It was very hot at this time of year, but I loved my tour. Hamad, my tour guide, took the time to explain everything, take some really fantastic photos (both of me and the landscapes!) and we covered so much ground. Check out everywhere we went below.
Hamad picked me up at my hotel in Doha at 9am and then we spent a full day touring around the northern part of Qatar, returning about 4pm.
Note that, as with everywhere in the Middle East, you should always have your knees and shoulders covered out of respect for the local culture.
Stop 1: Al Khor Fish Market
We drove north out of Doha along the coast to Al Khor, home to one of the main fish markets in the country. A recent investment by the Ministry of Municipality saw a new fish market be opened in late 2022, although fishing and pearl diving has been the main source of income for Al Khor for many, many years.[Google Maps location here]
Stop 2: Al Thakira Mangroves
Across the bay from the Al Khor fish market, you can find the Al Thakira Mangroves, which, for a desert country, are a brilliant thriving ecosystem, home to migratory birds and plenty of fish and sealife. I learned that this local type of mangrove is the Avicennia Marina, known for being durable and hardy against the salty Persian Gulf. You can go for a brief walk along the boardwalk out to Purple Island and take in the nature as you go. Take care not to step on the mangroves so as not to damage the roots.[Google Maps location here]
Stop 3: Al Zubara Fort
From the mangroves, we drove to the far north of Qatar, deep into the desert and away from the futuristic city of Doha, to discover the Al Zubara Fort. Built in the early 1900s, the fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is a well-preserved typical Arabic fort with one-metre thick walls both for defense and for natural cooling. Nowadays, you can learn the history of the pearl diving industry, once the main thriving source of income for locals in this area.[Google Maps location here]
Stop 4: Jumail Abandoned Village
To get to see what an early 19th century village of pearl divers might have looked like was quite a treat. We picked our way gingerly through the crumbling village, even with a small mosque and minaret.[Google Maps location here]