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Greetings from Doha, the capital of Qatar. Although this country might not be a typical destination for travelers, if you find yourself with a layover here, I’m inviting you to explore the city anddelve into a new experience this “Pearl of the Gulf”.

Qatar is in the Middle East, situated on a small peninsula extending into the Arabian Gulf, surrounded by sandy shores. Not only is Qatar known for being home to one of the world’s top airlines for several years and one of the wealthiest countries from oil exports, but its modern infrastructure also beats all other competitors, earning its selection as the host of FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Doha stands out with its diverse architecture, blending ancient culture with modern prosperity, including museums, renowned shopping destinations, luxurious hotels, restaurants, and the world’s best airport Hamad International Airport.

Beauty and Grandeur at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)

If you are traveling with companions and carrying luggage, I suggest that you opt for Uber service for convenience and reasonable pricing. Our first stop, located about ten minutes away from the airport, was one of the landmarks highly recommended: Museum of Islamic Art, the largest Islamic Museum in the world.

The museum was designed by the renowned architect I.M. Pei, who also designed the Louvre Museum’s pyramid in Paris. Locals say the building resembles geometric shapes, and from a distance, appears like a veiled Muslim woman’s face, making it an intriguing sight.

As the car arrived at the entrance, we had a short walk ahead. Luckily, there were palm trees providing the shade along the path leading to the museum, keeping us cool. We were greeted with the spacious interior upon reaching the grand limestone structure.

Looking out, we admired the beautiful skyline along Doha’s waterfront, a true paradise for photography enthusiasts. Before exploring the exhibits, let’s take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, refreshing ourselves. Admission is free here, and there’s complimentary Wi-Fi available.

Inside the museum, every piece is fascinating, with captivating stories and invaluable artistic insights. The highlight is the collection of Islamic arts from three continents spanning over 1,500 years, including textiles, ceramics, among others. Their origins are from various regions spanning from Egypt and Turkey to India and Central Asia.

The Majestic Qatar State Mosque

Next on our itinerary was the Imam Muhammad ibn Wahhab Mosque, the national and largest mosque in Qatar, named after the religious leader Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Witnessing the grandeur in person is the only way to absorb its magnificence and intricate beauty as the camera obviously fails to capture them.

Visitors must remove their shoes before entering. Headscarves are provided for female visitors to ensure modesty and appropriateness. You can wear anything as long as it is respectful. The mosque welcomes visitors of all faiths except during religious ceremonies.

Constructed with sandstone and featuring asoft stone floor to mitigate the heat, the mosque showcases traditional Arabian architecture combined with contemporary elegance. As we strolled around in tranquility, we could not take our eyes off the captivating interior at all. A gaze back from the entrance will reveal a breathtaking view of Doha’s skyline through the doorways, creating a picturesque sight.

Safari Desert Tour

It would be a shame to visit the country known for its desert sea without making it to the actual place. It’s like going to London without taking a picture with the Tower of Big Ben. However, driving through the desert sea wasn’t an option, so we opted for the Red Safari Desert Tour. Due to time constraints, we booked a half-day tour with a guide.

The journey was by 4WD vehicle heading toward Qatar’s desert. Along the way, we stopped by the coastal route adjacent to Sealine Beach, where the surrounding area was white sandy desert akin to snow. As we were eagerly taking photos, our driver was also preparing the vehicle for driving on the sand dunes. But before long, we were here, and with ample time remaining, we were enticed to try riding the camel. Fortunately, the camel very cooperative and we returned with tons of beautiful photos.

Once ready, we continued our journey. I must say riding a vehicle on the desert sea is an experience like no other. The sensation of the trembling sand is beyond description; it’s akin to riding a roller coaster. As a passenger, you might not feel much, but seeing the vehicle climb down large sand dunes, you might secretly think if your mother saw this, she definitely wouldn’t let you come here. The next mission was sandboarding, an activity not to be missed in the authentic Arabian desert (given the chance).

We concluded our adventure with a view of the beauty at Khor Al Adaid. Here, UNESCO designates it as Qatar’s largest natural reserve. The breathtaking scenery of the iridescent sea surrounded by golden sand dunes reflecting the sunlight, was simply mesmerizing. If lucky, you might spot flamingos, turtles, or even Arabian oryx. The package of wonders didn’t end there; from the high vantage point of the viewing deck, you can even see the borderlands of Saudi Arabia. With that, our desert sea expedition came to an end. We almost forgot that the return journey would entail another bumpy ride. My only advice is: Just close your eyes and sleep if you can.

The full version is available in the 5000s magazine issue 57. Subscribe Now.

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