Home #WHERETONEXT Middle East Exploring Qatar: A Solo Traveler’s Journey

Exploring Qatar: A Solo Traveler’s Journey

Seafront of Doha skyline and Museum of Islamic Art view during sunny day Doha, Qatar

As a solo female traveller, I’m always looking for safe yet exciting destinations that offer rich cultural experiences. That’s why Qatar, an Islamic country on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, caught my attention. Though small in size, Qatar packs a huge travel punch. With its reputation as the safest country in the world, stunning architecture, vibrant food scene, and adventure activities set against desert landscapes, Qatar seemed like the perfect introduction for my first solo trip to the Middle East.

Timing and Weather Considerations

To avoid Qatar’s scorching summer temperatures, which can top 120°F, I planned my trip for January. The weather was pleasant, ranging from 60-75°F, making outdoor sightseeing comfortable. As a bonus, Qatar cools off nicely at night, so I could don a light jacket for open-air markets and nightlife.

Attire and Etiquette

While there are no formal dress codes for tourists, I dressed modestly out of respect when visiting mosques and conservative areas. Form-fitting clothes were swapped for loose tunics and pants that covered my shoulders and knees. I also packed a light scarf in case I needed to cover my hair. While alcohol consumption is allowed in licensed hotels and restaurants, public drunkenness is rare and frowned upon. I made sure to enjoy my wine and cocktails responsibly behind closed doors.

Getting Around

Opting to fly with Qatar Airways Dubai turned out to be a great decision. With daily service between Doha and Dubai, They made reaching my destination smooth and enjoyable. I landed at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar’s rapidly developing capital. The efficient metro system made navigating the city a breeze. When metres weren’t available, I used ride-share services like Uber. The drivers were professional and courteous. Rental cars were tempting with Qatar’s modern highways, but hefty fines for traffic violations had me sticking to public transportation.

The impressive Fanar centre, Qatar Islamic Cultural Center building on a sunny day

Top Moments and Activities

  • My hotel, the Marsa Malaz Kempinski on the man-made Pearl Island, offered European-inspired architecture with Arabian flourishes. I loved the contrast of ornately decorated domes set against sleek towers mirrored in azure canals. From my luxurious home base, I set out to explore Qatar’s treasures.
  • No visit is complete without experiencing Doha’s Souq Waqif, an open-air market brimming with vibrant spices and crafts. The tempting smells of saffron and cinnamon led me to cosy restaurants bustling with locals and tourists sampling aromatic dishes. Just outside the market, I sampled a dhow cruise, admiring Doha’s glittering skyline as the wooden boat gently floated down the coast.
  • When I felt the need for speed, I booked a thrilling desert safari. As I clung to roll bars in the 4×4, our skilled driver ascended and descended massive burnt orange dunes. Nothing could top careening over never-ending ripples of sand. Well, almost nothing. Galloping atop a camel through the desert as the setting sun-stained surrounding peaks pink come in as a close second.
  • Back in Doha, I traded adventure for relaxation at the lavish Sisley Spa in the W Hotel. As tension melted from my body during a hot stone massage to the soothing sounds of a tableside water fountain, I realised I’d found my happy place. I emerged many blissful hours later feeling refreshed.
  • The Museum of Islamic Art, a monumental display of regional treasures, capped my stay. My favourite exhibits included jewelled daggers, intricate textiles, and painted urns from the 8th to 19th century. The I.M. The Pei-designed building itself is a work of art that could rival anything in the Louvre with its striking geometry and use of light.
  • I spent half a day relaxing at Zulal Wellness Resort. This lush northern retreat focuses on nourishment, movement, and serenity against the backdrop of the Persian Gulf. My customised spa treatment began with stretching my sore touring muscles through a private yoga session. Next came an aromatherapy massage with cooling jade stones and followed by a dip in mineral-rich pools. This tranquil experience left me feeling peaceful yet invigorated.

As my time in Qatar drew to a close, I knew one trip could hardly do this amazing destination justice. Vowing to return, I plotted ways to see the sights and tastes I’d missed like the elusive inland sea, singing dunes, labyrinthine markets, and beaches dotted with palapa-style cabanas. But those adventures would have to wait until next time. Maybe I’d even convince a friend or two to join me for Qatar round two!