Innovative Museums, Charming Markets & More: All The Fun Things To Do During Qatar’s National Day
On this very day, 144 years ago, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani became the first Emir of Qatar. Helmed as its “founder”, he was credited with unifying the tribes of the peninsula to create the modern state of Qatar. Today, the entire country celebrates the rebirth of its nation which stands as one of the Gulf region’s favored destinations with a full-fledged tourism campaign to boot.
The country’s main tourism campaign proudly states that “Qatar holds thrills and novel experiences for all. It offers a window to the past – and a glimpse into the future, all under the umbrella of that famous Arabian hospitality.” But what are these, “thrills and novel experiences for all”? We thought we’d find out and put together a list of everything you can do in Qatar during its National Day.
Explore into the World-Class Museum of Islamic Art
With one of the world’s greatest collection of Islamic art, Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art is a truly impressive museum not be missed by those interested in art, crafts, Arab history and culture. Alongside its permanent historical display, the museum hosts exhibitions for contemporary artists and on particular parts of its collection. The museum itself overlooking the harbor is quite a sight designed by the legendary architect I.M. Pei to relate to the geometric forms of Islamic art and inspired in particular by Cairo’s Ibn Tulun Mosque. The building’s design is a classic Qatari mix of the traditional and ultra-modern.
Stroll Along the Doha Corniche
With the traditional Qatari boats, known as dhows, in the foreground and futuristic skyscrapers looming in the background, the Doha Corniche makes for quite a spectacular landscape. With a long seven kilometre walkway, the Doha Corniche in the mornings and evenings is a great way to explore many of the city’s sights, from the National Museum to the south to the Museum of Islamic Art in the north. It is also a great way to get a close-up look of the dhow boats and to get an idea of when Doha was a small port town famous for its pearl diving.
Venture Through Qatar’s Inland Sea
Also known as the Khawr al Udayd, Qatar’s Inland Sea is a body of saltwater mostly cut off from the sea by dramatic sand dunes that is home to a unique habitat. With sightings of dolphins and sea turtles along with flamingos and gazelles, the Inland Sea is unusually rich in wildlife. With several companies organizing desert safaris out to this unique landscape, a visit to Qatar’s Inland Sea is a must-do for every visitor.
Get Lost in the Museum of Illusions
Doha’s Museum of Illusions offers something different for sure. This child and camera-friendly museum certainly isn’t like the museums you’re used to and offers something out of the ordinary to do in Qatar. With rooms that make you look small, rooms that make you look tall, and rooms that make you look upside down, the Museum of Illusions is a family-friendly spot.
Let Your Tastebuds Travel the World
Qatar is proudly Qatari and proudly Arab, but the country is also home to long-term residents from all over the world that have brought their cultures and cuisines with them. With Qatari nationals only making up 11.3% of the population, the other 88.7% of the population come from every corner of the globe. Because of this, you can find everything from Brazilian barbecue to Mongolian cuisine. What makes Qatar different than many other cosmopolitan centers with international cuisines, however, is that Qatar is home to a huge amount of Michelin-starred restaurants, with the Japanese restaurant Nobo, the French–Qatari fusion restaurant Opus, and the Italian restaurant Vertias standing out as some of the best.
Visit Qatar’s Falcon Souq
Falcons are not only Qatar’s national bird and one of its most iconic symbols, but an important part of the country’s cultural and sporting history. Qataris are famous for their obsession with breeding and looking after falcons, as well as training them to hunt in the desert. The heart of Qatar’s culture of falconry can be found in the Falcon Souq, where people go to buy falconry supplies, trade falcons, and discuss all things falconry with like-minded individuals, and the market even houses a specialized hospital just for the birds.
Wonder Around Doha’s Futuristic Downtown
Touted as the heart of Doha and the “world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project”, Msheireb Downtown is home to some incredible architecture, public art, bustling commercial spaces, and a lively events calendar all year. With some excellent cafes, restaurants, and clothes shops, one could spend hours exploring Msheireb. If Msheireb appeals to the futurist in you, the huge retractable sun shades and elevated pathways should keep you fascinated.
Appreciate Contemporary Art in the Desert
In the middle of the desert, Richard Serra’s 2014 piece called East West/West East can be found breaking up the landscape. The imposing and enormous monoliths dot the landscape for over a kilometre and have been an important part of Serra’s long and well-established career. The acclaimed sculptor Olafur Eliasson, who’s known for his fascination with the desert and mirages, was also commissioned to create his own piece in the desert. His mirage-like Shadows Travelling on the Sea of the Day has created a dream-like experience in the Qatari desert that has attracted thousands of visitors.
Explore the Souq Waqif
If you’re looking for fancy malls, Doha has plenty of course, but if you’re looking for a shopping experience that’s a little different, Doha also has the Souq Waqif. For one hundred years, the Souq Waqif, which translates to the standing market, has traded pearls, gold, clothes, and even falcons. Now, the market has become an important tourist destination with cafes and restaurants.
Ponder Qatar’s Contemporary Art Scene
Qatar has put serious money into its contemporary art scene, with ambitious projects to attract some of the world’s most well-known artists and set up museums and galleries that stand out as important centers of contemporary art in the region. In particular, the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is one of the most important centers dedicated to promoting Arab artists, along with the Fire Station that has similarly made a tangible impact on the international art scene.
If you’re planning on heading to Qatar during its National Day, there’s a surprisingly large amount to do in this small country especially as it has been making strong efforts at positioning itself as a tourism hub. While you don’t often hear of friends or family heading off to Qatar for a holiday, with all the country has to offer and the country heavily investing in its tourism industry, dropping Qatar a visit during its National Day can be a great way to celebrate the holiday.
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