- 26 Jan 2012 8:00 AM
Before oil production began 60 years ago the population was around 25,000; now it nudges 1.7 million and is expected to increase as the nation gears up to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
For centuries nomadic Bedouin wandered the gravelled plains of the interior with their sheep and camels, while coastal people fished for pearls – the main source of Qatar’s pre-oil wealth.
Nominally part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, the foundations of the modern Qatar state were laid by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, ancestor of the present ruler.
The fast-growing capital, Doha, encircles a wide bay and features stunning buildings designed by some of the world’s most famous architects, as well as lovingly preserved traditional architecture.
For a nightcap on arrival head for Bubbles on Two at the Ramada Plaza, open until 1am, or the Crystal Lounge at the W Hotel which stays open until 2pm. Your passport is required for entry.
All the 5-star hotels lay on a lavish breakfast buffet offering Arabic and international cuisine. Try any of the conveniently central hotels (on the Doha Corniche.
Suffering from jet lag? Treat yourself to a relaxing session of body therapy at the Ritz Carlton Hotel’s luxury Spa. Details on www.ritzcarlton.com/Doha
A must for every visitor, the jewel in Doha’s crown is the Museum of Islamic Art on its own island off the Corniche. Persian carpets, Moghul jewels, ceramic and glassware treasures galore. Opening times: www.mia.org.qa
To sample authentic Qatari cooking, lunch at Al-Tawash (‘pearl dealer’) Restaurant in Souq Waqif. Try Hamour Kabsa – grilled fish on fragrant rice; or Machbous – spiced rice and chicken
(tel: 4498 2002).
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, located in a former school near Doha’s Education City, houses a unique collection of work by artists from every Arab country. Admission is free.
Doha’s most popular shopping venue is Villaggio Mall on Al Waab Street. A vast Italian-style building packed with top-name designer boutiques, restaurants, a skating rink, and a Venetian canal with mini-gondolas.
Wander along the Corniche and step aboard one of the small dhows, festooned with lights, for a tour of the bay with views of the city’s glittering towers reflected in the calm waters of the Gulf.
Enjoy some of the finest Arabic/Lebanese food in Doha, followed by a relaxing shisha pipe, in a waterfront restaurant with a terrace giving stunning views over the sea. Al Mourjan (tel: 4483 4423).
The liveliest club scene in the city is the Qube nightclub/bar at the Ramada Plaza, where the energetic groove the night away until 2am. Don’t forget your passport!
Taxi: For distinctive turquoise Karwa metered taxis call one hour ahead. Check outside hotels and malls or hail one on the street.
Bus: Karwa public buses are comfortable, clean, and cheap. Bus stops display timetables; buses run approximately every 15 minutes.
Limousine: Book a Karwa limousine at the airport or 5-star hotels.
Car: All major rental companies have stands at Doha International Airport.
Source: Qatar Airways