Qatar

From Halal Explorer

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Qatar (Arabic: قطر; pronounced kut-ar) is a rich Arab state occupying a small peninsula extending into the Persian Gulf to the north of Saudi Arabia, east of Bahrain and west of the United Arab Emirates.

Many come to the Middle East seeking the mystic, traditional life of the Bedouins, wandering the desert with their life's belongings on a camel's back. Although tradition is still an important part of the Qatari ethos and the nation has well and truly moved into the twenty-first century with the piercing glass skyscrapers of Doha, a booming trade sector and a new-found place in international diplomacy.

Other Muslim friendly Cities in Qatar

  • Doha – capital
  • Al Khor – northern city with a population of some 36,000, close to Ras Laffan LNG (liquified natural gas) terminal
  • Al Shamal – this Travel Guide covers the wider area of the northern municipality of Madinat ash Shamal
  • Al Shahaniyah
  • Al Wakrah
  • Dukhan
  • Mesaieed – industrial town south of Doha, and 25 kilometers south of Wakra, with recreational activities on the coast, including the sand dunes of Khor Al Udeid (the Inland Sea)
  • Umm Salal Mohammed

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in Qatar

Fort Zubara, Qatar (2371639734)

  • Zubarah - the ruins of a deserted city and a fort built in 1938 by Sheikh Abdu'llah bin Qasim Al-Thani

Qatar Halal Travel Guide

Qatar has the world's third-largest natural-gas reserves, behind only Russia and Iran. Its oil reserves are similar in size to those of the United States but will last much longer because its production levels are only one-sixth the rate of that country. By most accounts its people are the wealthiest in the world.

Because its Al Jazeera TV satellite networks broadcast throughout the globe in Arabic and English, Qatar is hugely influential in an otherwise very conservative region.

History of Qatar

There is evidence that shows the Qatar peninsula had been inhabited by Bedouin and Canaanite tribes from as early as 4000 BCE. While the museum houses a variety of artifacts including spearheads and pieces of pottery and there is little left of the structures that may have once existed. The Al-Jassassiya rock carvings north of Doha give some idea of how these tribes may have lived. More recently, some sandstone buildings and masjids were discovered, piquing the interest of archaeologists as they seek to discover what still lays beneath the sand.

Emerging out of ancient history, Qatar was dominated by various Western and Eastern empires. The Ormus used the peninsula as a trading post and military port, until the Portuguese were able to extend their rule over the region. Neighbouring Bahrain eventually annexed the peninsula, until rebel movements and Britain|British intervention again made Qatar independent. Under pressure, Qatar became a part of the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1871 before becoming a British protectorate at the close of World War I. After a brief stint as part of the United Arab Emirates, independence was declared from Britain peacefully in 1971.

Since then, Qatar has transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for its pearling industry into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues, which enable Qatar to have the highest GDP per capita in the world. Qatar has become deeply involved in world affairs under the royal family, offering support in peacekeeping missions and UN-mandated wars such as that in the Gulf in 1991. Qatar also plays host to various world conferences, including those of the World Trade Organisation and the UN Climate Convention and various mediation bodies. It leaped onto the world stage with the development of the popular Al Jazeera news network and expansion of Qatar-Airways to most of the world's continents, and is rapidly gaining interest among foreigners as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup after already holding the Asian Games in 2006.

What is the Geography of Qatar

Qatar is a peninsula that juts into the Persian Gulf. Most of the nation consists of low barren plain covered with dunes. In the southeast of Qatar lies the Khor al Adaid, an area with sand dunes and an inlet from the Persian Gulf.

Economy

Oil is a cornerstone of the Qatari economy; it used to account for more than 30% of GDP, roughly 80% of export earnings and 58% of government revenues. Proven oil reserves of 15 billion barrels should ensure continued output at current levels for at least the next 20 years. Oil and gas have given Qatar the highest GDP per capita by most studies. Qatar's proved reserves of natural gas exceed 7 trillion m³, more than 11% of the world's total, making it the third largest reserve in the world. Production and export of natural gas are becoming increasingly important. Qatar manages to post very high surpluses each year, and escaped the Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed.

In addition to the energy sector, Qatar also exports petrochemicals, cement and steel. Doha has a rapidly growing financial sector that is cementing itself as one of the centres of trade and finance within the Middle East. The Qatari government has also outlined its plan to boost tourism and media businesses on the peninsula, creating new sectors to further increase Qatar's profile. In addition, many foreign universities have set up outposts in Qatar, transforming Qatar into one of the main education hubs of the Middle East.

How is the Climate in Qatar

The climate of Qatar can be described as arid and unforgiving. In the summer, which runs from May through to September and the days are characterised by intense and humid heat, averaging 35°C but not unknown to peak at 50°C. In the winter, October to April and the days are much more bearable at about 20-25°C, with a nice cool evening down to around 15°C. If the heat is to be avoided and the best months to visit would be December and January.

Rainfall and storms in Qatar are extremely rare, forcing local residents to retrieve water from newly-constructed desalination plants. However, huge sandstorms that envelop the peninsula are common in the summertime. These can be hazardous if not under shelter, and will descend the nation into darkness as it blots out the hot sun above. There may also be disruptions to transportation and other services.

Travel as a Muslim to Qatar

Visa policy of Qatar

Entry requirements

Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not require a visa to visit Qatar, and may use National ID Cards to enter the nation.

Citizens of all European Union nations (except Ireland and the United Kingdom), plus the Bahamas, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Norway, Seychelles, Switzerland and Türkiye are granted a free multiple-entry visa waiver on arrival, provided they arrive through Hamad International Airport, have a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket. Visa waivers are valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, and entitle its holder to spend up to 90 consecutive days in Qatar.

Citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (PRC), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Georgia, Guyana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and the Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela may obtain a visa waiver upon arrival in Hamad International Airport valid for 30 days from the date of issuance. This waiver may be extended for a further 30 days.

Citizens of Macau, Mauritius, Montenegro and Taiwan may obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 30 days.

Citizens of Pakistan can obtain a visa on arrival valid for 30 days, provided that they hold a passport valid for 6 months, QR5000 in cash or a major credit card, and a confirmed return ticket.

Citizens of Iran travelling on business can obtain a visa on arrival at a cost of QR100 for a maximum stay of 6 days, provided they hold QR5000 in cash or a major credit card, return ticket, upper class hotel reservation and an invitation by a company that is certified by the Government.

Citizens of all nationalities who hold valid residence permits or visas for either the United Kingdom and the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Schengen Area, or the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council can obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation valid for up to 30 days. The visa may be extended online for 30 additional days.

Regardless of nationality, Muslim travellers who are in transit through Hamad International Airport do not require a visa if they depart within 24 hours and remain within the airport. Free transit visas, which are valid for up to 96 hours (4 days) and allow travellers to briefly visit Qatar, are also issued to all passengers of any nationality transiting through Hamad International Airport, provided that they travel with Qatar-Airways.

For those needing visas, tourist visas are available online through the eVisa system. Visas are issued within four working days if all documents are submitted, and are valid for a stay period up to 30 days in Qatar.

For other visa applications, visa procedures can be complicated, as you will need a guarantor on the Qatari side, either a company or a government entity. Also Qatari embassies, unlike those of most other countries, are not entitled to issue visas, so someone in Qatar will have to file the application for you. 4/5-star hotels offer full visa service, for a price, if you book a room with them for the duration of your stay. Qatar-Airways can arrange the hotel and visa for you, tel. +974 44496980 if you contact them in advance (a 7-day notice seem to be required). In this case and there also seems to also be a new regulation in place (2023) to either present a credit card or QR5000 at the point of entry - which should generally not be a problem, if you can afford the room. When booking with other hotels, you'll need a guarantor in Qatar.

For longer stays, visas must be arranged by having a sponsor. Unmarried women under the age of 35 will have a hard time in procuring a visa for a lengthy stay, as the nation seems to fear that their safety and well being cannot be guaranteed.

Qatar is among the few Gulf states that officially accepts Israeli settler passports (with the necessary visas) and passports with evidence of visits to Israel.

Buy a Flight ticket to and from Qatar

Doha_Airport_2008_(40)

Entry by air into Qatar has boomed in the last decade. Most people visiting the nation will enter via Hamad International Airport (IATA Flight Code: DOH) near Doha. State-owned flag carrier Qatar-Airways has secured a huge network of flights operating out of its hub in Doha to 124 destinations. In fact, it is of the very few airports in the world with non-stop services to all inhabited continents. Other major airlines also serve the airport, usually running a route between Doha and their own hub in the base country.

A taxi fare from the airport has a default tariff of QR 25.

By car

The only land route to Qatar is from/through Saudi Arabia. If you plan on driving from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and other Gulf countries to Qatar through Saudi Arabia, you will need a Saudi transit visa in advance and documents proving your onward journey. There are future plans for a major bridge to link Qatar with neighbouring Bahrain, although these are constantly delayed.

Even if you do manage to obtain a Saudi visa, travel by vehicle is not recommended. The roads between Qatar and other major cities/countries are poor. If you are travelling during the day, be cautious of speeding cars and trucks. Always wear your seat belt and do not speed over 50 mph (80 km/h).

Travel on a Bus in Qatar

You can travel to Qatar by bus from/through Saudi Arabia and there are fixed bus routes, within Qatar, although mostly used by men only. However, customs can take up to 4 hours especially at night. You will not be treated nearly as well as if you fly into Doha. Flying in costs only slightly more than a bus ticket.

Book a Halal Cruise or Boat Tour in Qatar

There are no specific boat routes, but there are commercial freight boats coming into Doha from all over the world, as well as small commercial boats coming in from Dubai and Iran.

How to get around in Qatar

Public transport comes in three forms in Qatar: buses, taxis and limousines, all of which are owned by government-owned Mowasalat (Karwa) apart from some private limousine companies.

By bus

Doha Karwa public bus

The bus service began in October 2005. Ticketing is handled using a Karwa Smartcard, which comes in three flavours:

  • Smartcard Classic - Initial fee of QR30 with QR20 credit included. Journey prices vary, costing QR2.50 for a short ride. You must tap-in when you get on the bus, and tap-off when you get off to avoid a default QR30 penalty. Can be purchased in various retailers as listed on the Karwa website, but not on board buses.
  • Smartcard 24 Limited - An initial fee of QR10 allows 2 trips on the bus (one return trip) within 24 hours of first tapping-in. You only need to tap-in, and should not tap-off. Can be bought on board the bus for travel in Greater Doha only.
  • Smartcard 24 Unlimited - An initial fee of QR20 gives the user unlimited travel throughout Qatar within 24 hours of first tapping-in. Again and there is no necessity to tap-off. Can be bought aboard the bus.

A large number of routes criss-cross the nation, with the network stretching north to Al Khor, west to Dukhan, and as far south as Mesaieed. Timetable and ticketing information can be obtained by calling +974 4436 6053.

By taxi or limousine

Qatar, Dukhan Highway

The government-owned Mowasalat also runs the taxi and limousine service. The taxis are easily spotted due to their uniform light blue colour with a maroon top. The initial fare on the meter is QR 4, with an extra QR 1.20 per kilometre within Doha and QR 1.80 anywhere outside the capital. A trip to or from the airport has a single tariff of QR 25. To ensure you are not scammed, some precautions should be noted:

  • For journeys within Doha the tariff should be set to '1', and those at night or outside of Doha should be set to '0'.
  • Check the meter is not tampered; signs of a tampered meter include tape and strips of paper around the outside.
  • By law, if a driver refuses to use the meter and the ride should be free.
  • There are occasional reports of unruly drivers locking the taxi doors or refusing to open the trunk until extra payment is made. If such an occurrence happens to you, attempt to leave the car. If not feasible, calling the police on 999 should cause the driver to become very cooperative.

The demand for taxis exceeds the supply and waiting times can vary greatly. Attempting to obtain one during morning business hours requires at least 24 hours notice, although even in training this is unreliable, as the scheduled taxi often doesn't show up. At other times, it may take 90 minutes or more to get an on-call taxi, and hailing one on the street may be imfeasible much of the time. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi are major malls and the airport and international hotels.

Taxis can be booked and summoned by calling +974 4458 8888.

An alternative to taxis and buses would be to use a limousine service, which will send an unmarked limo vehicle to your location. They are expensive, but luxurious taxis with an initial fee of QR 20, but do not always feature a meter.

International limousine services, such as Uber, Careem, and Lyft are available in Qatar. The apps allow for quick and easy summoning of a driver.

Occasionally, a local driver may offer you a lift if they see you waiting on the side of the road. It is customary to offer some money at the end, though usually they will refuse to take it. A driver offering a lift will slow down and flash their headlights at you; they can be summoned with a wave in response. Although the training is safe, it is not advisable for solo women.

Rent a Car or Limousine in Qatar

You can hire a vehicle with local automobile rental services. Plenty of them are located near the airport and Doha downtown, or else ask your hotel for some advice.

What to see in Qatar

For a comparatively small peninsula in the Middle East and there is quite a lot to see in Qatar.

Historical monuments

Jebel Jassassiyeh boat carving?

The history-seeker will not be disappointed, with an assortment of ruins, cave art and museums to keep the mind wandering. Most famous is the archaeological site of Zubarah, where there are the remains of what was once a thriving port city. An early 20th century fort on the site still stands as a museum, a testament to a bygone era. The Al-Jassassiya rock carvings in north-eastern Qatar are a remarkable site of 900 petroglyphs that are believed to date back to ancient tribes who inhabited the peninsula during the 15th century BCE.

A number of forts and towers exist around the nation; most of them have also been restored as museums. The Barzan Towers stand at the edge of the town of Umm Salal Mohammed, erected to safeguard the nation's rainwater basin. Another defensive watchtower stands in Al Khor. The popular Al Koot Fort is located in the heart of the capital Doha, with a wide variety of traditional handicrafts within. Others structures include Marwab Fort, Al Thughab Fort, Al Shaghab Fort, Al Rakiyat Fort, Al Wajbah Fort and the ruins of Al Yussoufiya Fort, Umm Al Maa Fort and Al Ghuwair Castle.

While the National Museum is closed for renovations and there are a number of other museums across the nation that specialise in history. The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Al Shahaniya is the Sheikh's collection of relics, artefacts and art from Qatar and the Middle East and around the world.

Modern attractions

The Pearl at Night (5540218048)

  • The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
  • Souq Waqif : the traditional old marketplace of Qatar. Has many good restaurants, especially at night time. Also sells many national products - bargaining is recommended.
  • The Pearl : a man-made island connected to Doha by a bridge. You can find a big variety of restaurants and retail outlets, mainly in the high range.
  • Villaggio Mall: a spectacular Venetian style shopping mall with a canal and gondolas as well. A huge variety of shops from casual to luxury.
  • Mathaf : The Arab museum of modern art
  • Katara : Cultural village which is home to many international and Arab restaurants, a beautiful beach, and holds many cultural events. Definitely a place to see.
  • Aqua park : Aquatic Funfair.
  • Qatar Mall: A huge meal with a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
  • Aspire park: A beautiful park next to Villaggio mall, it is reserved for families only on the weekend, visiting in the winter months is recommended.
  • MIA park: A beautiful park next to the museum of Islamic art , single people are allowed in, visiting in the winter months is recommended.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in Qatar

Money Matters & ATM's in Qatar

Souq Waqif with Qataris in foreground

The national currency is the Qatari riyal, denoted by the symbol "ر.ق" or "QR" (ISO code: QAR). The riyal is pegged to the U.S. dollar at the rate of QR3.64 to US $1. One riyal is divided into 100 dirham, with 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 dirham coin denominations. The riyal is available in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 banknote denominations.

It is fairly straightforward to change major world currencies within Qatar, along with the currencies of Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Rates are fairly similar between banks and moneychangers, with a large concentration of moneychangers near the Gold Souq of Doha. Banks are abundant across Doha, with branches in the larger cities as well. Travellers cheques are accepted by the major banks.

Muslim Friendly Shopping in Qatar

Qatar has many malls in which regular international brands such as H&M, Zara, and Mango. The biggest malls are Mall of Qatar, Festival City, and Downtown. Middle eastern and local brands are also present

The pearl has luxurious brands from all over the world. It is the premium luxury shopping destination in Qatar.

Blue Salon has huge sales twice a year where you can pick up Armani, Valentino and Cerutti suits for half price. There are many things to buy here but be wary of affordable pearls that have a high possibility of being fake. The many skilled tailors in Qatar make it a good place to have clothes made-to-fit.

The souqs in the centre of Doha also have a lot to offer, although the goods are usually of cheaper quality than those of the malls. Prices are usually negotiable, so training your bargaining skills. Souq Waqif (The Standing Souk) is the most interesting of the souqs; it has been renovated to look as it did 50 or 60 years ago. You can buy anything from a turban to a pot large enough to cook a baby camel in!

Best things to do in Qatar

A great activity for tourists is simply to experience the nation's tradition. The traditional Qatari way of life was simple: Bedouin nomads wandering the desert with their camels, and fisherman scouring the ocean floor for pearls to trade. While these two lifestyles are mostly extinct on the peninsula and the government has taken some measures to preserve their traditions for future generations to experience.

Many tour companies run desert expeditions by both four-wheel drive and camel. Some may just be for the day, while others can go for up to a week with trekkers camping overnight in a Bedouin tent. The one day "dune-bashing" tours simply involve speeding over the desert's endless dunes in a Landcruiser.

The pearling tradition has existed as far back as 2000 BCE, when Mesopotamian records speak of shining "fish eyes" imported from the Gulf region. While the industry went bust after the discovery of oil, a large festival is held each year to celebrate the tradition. The Qatar Marine Festival in Doha often includes a huge sea expedition by various dhow boats to find oyster beds on the ocean floor. Other activities at the festival include a musical performance, a seal show, a sandsculptor's expedition and a water, light and sound show.

Many companies offer shipwreck diving for tourists, which can be organised from Doha. Popular diving sites include the man-made Old Club Reef and New Club Reef just out of Messaied, Qapco Reef and the M.O. Shipwreck and the Al Sharque Shipwreck.

Other popular watersports include kite-surfing, driving jet-skis, surfing and chartered fishing expeditions.

Halal Restaurants in Qatar

Machboos

Qatar has seemingly endless options for food, much of it excellent. If you would like European cuisine in a fancy setting, visit a hotel like the Ramada or the Marriott, both of which also offer excellent sushi and the choice of having soft drinks with your meal (the only restaurants in town that can do this are in the major hotels), but at a steep price. Authentic and delicious Indian and Pakistani food is found throughout the city, ranging from family-oriented places to very basic eateries catering to the Indian and Pakistani workers. You may attract some curious stares in the worker eateries, but the management will almost always be extremely welcoming, and the food is very affordable.

Middle Eastern cuisine is everywhere as well, and in many forms—kebabs, breads, hummus and the list goes on. It can be purchased on the affordable from a take-out (many of which look quite unimpressive, but serve awesome food) or from a fancier place, like the wonderful Layali (near Chili's in the 'Cholesterol Corner' area) that serves gourmet Lebanese Halal Food and has hookahs with flavored tobacco. Refined Persian cuisine is available for reasonable prices in the royally appointed Ras Al-Nasa`a Restaurant on the Corniche (don't miss the cathedral-like rest rooms). Traditional Qatari food is, however, surprisingly hard to find in restaurants, and is largely confined to the homes of local residents. As Qataris have a strong culture of hospitality, if you have Qatari friends, being invited to their homes is generally the best chance you'll get to sample the local cuisine.

Don't be afraid to venture into the souqs looking for a meal; it will be a unique experience in an authentic setting, and although some of the places you see may look rundown, that's just the area in general, and the food will be probably be quite good. Many of the restaurants in the souqs (as well as the shops) shut down during the afternoon hours. If you are in a funny kind of mood, you can try a McArabia—Mc Donald's (Please do not support McDonald's as McDonald's supports Israel. Shun this restaurant group and go for altertative brands and if possible for a Muslim owned restaurant) Middle Eastern sandwiches available only in the region.

Study as a Muslim in Qatar

Education City is a new project in Doha funded by the Qatari Government through the Qatar Foundation. It is the home to Qatar Academy and the Learning Centre and the Academic Bridge Program (similar to a college prep school), as well as branch campuses of Texas A&M University (Engineering), Weill Cornell Medical College (Medical), Virginia Commonwealth University (Arts and Communication), Carnegie Mellon University (Business and Computer Science), Georgetown University (School of Foreign Service), and the latest addition to the fold, Northwestern University (Journalism) and Faculty of Islamic Studies all located in Education City to the east of Doha in the Rayyan area.

In addition to this Education City is home to the Qatar Science and Technology Park, one of the only places in the Middle East undertaking research and development initiatives. The location of so many academics and students is very appealing for research focused organisations. Lastly, Education City is also home to the newly opened Qatar National Library building.

The College of the North Atlantic (based in Newfoundland, Canada), also maintains a campus in Doha in the northern section of the city, near the local Qatar University. The University of Calgary (Nursing) is also in Qatar.

How to work legally in Qatar

You will need a work visa to be able to work in Qatar, and receiving one will require a Qatari sponsor to apply on your behalf. Similar to the neighbouring Arab Gulf countries, foreigners on work visas require an exit visa in order to leave the nation, and receiving an exit visa requires the permission of your employer.

The work day starts quite early in Qatar. Do not be surprised by 7AM meetings!

In the summer, many small stores and Arab businesses will be open from 8AM Monday - 12PM and 4PM Monday - 8PM. During the "siesta", most people return home to escape the oppressive heat.

Qatar does not issue permanent residence visas, but foreigners who wish to stay permanently and have good relationships with local residents of significant clout have been known to retire in Qatar while nominally on a work visa. Foreign women may obtain citizenship by being married to a Qatari man (though this does not apply to foreign men married to Qatari women), but otherwise obtaining citizenship is next to imfeasible for foreigners.

Stay safe as a Muslim in Qatar

Noche en Qatar (8121792118)

The emergency phone number for police, ambulance or fire department is 999.

Qatar is a significant contrast from the surrounding region, with no war, no conflict and minimal crime.

Travelling on the roads is probably the largest danger to your wellbeing. Although being safer than most other Asian and Middle Eastern drivers, Qataris often ignore road rules and are intolerant of pedestrians attempting to cross the road. Be safe when walking near or over major highways.

Dust storms and sandstorms are another major issue, being common throughout the dry summer. These natural events can shroud the nation in darkness and cause severe respiratory issues. If a sandstorm is approaching, immediately seek shelter or wear a facemask.

Medical Issues in Qatar

Drink lots of water and take proper precautions for the sun, including clothing that covers your skin and sunscreen.

Tap water is potable, but most residents choose to drink bottled water just in case. erally a custom to argue for the bill.


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