Qatar’s Coastal Attractions
Qatar's desert landscape means that the majority of its population and the country's activities are located along its lengthy coastline. And, while there are plenty of beaches and resorts to explore, a tour of the coast offers so much else to see and do.
As you journey from Doha to the tip of Qatar's peninsula, down to the border with Saudi Arabia and back, much of Qatar's past, present and future is laid out before you.
- There are modern man-made islands to visit.
- There is Doha's iconic and ever-evolving Corniche.
- There are abandoned towns and villages from Qatar's past.
- There are traditional souqs, modern promenades, fishing harbours, wild landscapes, mangroves full of wildlife, heritage and archaeological sites and many other worthy attractions.
Qatar is a small country, so all of these attractions are within easy reach. Qatar's ever-evolving transport infrastructure gives you a variety of different options for your journey.
Click on the map to see where some of Qatar’s coastal attractions are located.
There are several low lying islands around the coast of Qatar. Some are natural, and some are man-made, each one has something unique to offer.
Banana Island, a private man-made island, lies just off the coast near Doha. A complimentary ferry trip, lasting 25 minutes, takes you to the resort located on the island. The resort is ideal for a day visit or a stay away - packages are available for a variety of visit types. The resort has a beautiful, 800m crescent-shaped sandy beach with shallow seas lapping at the shore. Water sports, swimming pools, a spa, gym, golfing green and tennis courts, a cinema and bowling alley, and a kids club are all available for guests and visitors. And, a selection of restaurants, cafes and diners provide the fuel for your adventure.
Jazit Ra's Rakan is an island located off of the north-most tip of Qatar. It is a natural, low lying islet that can only be reached by wading through shallow waters or by using a shallow draft inflatable or similar. It is uninhabited with areas of grass and some mangroves. The island would probably be part of an adventure to explore the north of the peninsula and perhaps somewhere to do a little fishing or snorkelling.
The Pearl is world renown as a luxurious man-made island complex off the West Bay Lagoon area of Doha. It is an enticing mixture of yacht-lined marinas, waterfront promenades, private beaches, residential apartments, villas and townhouses and business premises set in distinct architectural districts - which have earned it the moniker of the Arab Riviera. It is a great place to walk, shop, eat and look at the fish that swim alongside the jetties and the marina. There are shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, there are organised events, and the Medina Central is the town square where there is always something to see or do.
Purple Island located to the north of Doha near Al Khor is something entirely different. When you are there, it no longer feels like you are in a dry, desert country - there is an abundance of mangrove forests and plenty of wildlife and marine life to discover, as well as beaches and unusual rock formations. You can explore on foot, or you can hire kayaks and paddle up and down the many channels through the forests. The island is connected to the mainland by a footbridge that runs through the mangrove forests.
Safliya Island is a deserted island in the bay adjacent to Doha's West Bay; it is the perfect place for a break from the hustle and bustle of life. You can hire a boat, or you can go on a paid tour that takes you there. The island has good beaches equipped with sunshades, good swimming and great views of the city. There are opportunities for water sports, including banana boat rides and jet skies. You can go to relax, do a bit of fishing, take a picnic or have a BBQ, or for something a little livelier, several sociable events and festivities are held on the island throughout the year.
The 7 km Corniche in Doha is the jewel in Qatar's crown. The promenade runs around the bay from the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park in the south, past the Dhow Harbour and the Orry the Oryx Statue up to West Bay in the north. It is hugely popular with locals and visitors alike. There is so much to see and do here; you could spend days in this area alone. There are nearly always events of some sort happening, and after dark people and families come out just to walk, picnic and to enjoy the lively atmosphere in the cool of the evening.
A real must is the Souq Waqif - a traditional Qatari marketplace that has been in Doha in various guises for 100 years and gives visitors an authentic flavour of the Middle East. It has streets, lanes and passageways filled with shops and stalls selling all kinds of goods, both traditional and modern. It has plenty of restaurants, cafes and shisha lounges. As if that is not enough, within the lanes you can find a gold souq, a falcon souq, a camel pen and a horse stable.
Showcasing the region's culture and tradition are two splendid museums – the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar. The Museum of Islamic Art is built on an artificial peninsula jutting out into the bay. Its iconic architecture has five stories which house one of the World's most complete collections of Islamic artefacts. The National Museum of Qatar is a uniquely stunning building based on the desert rose crystalline structure. The museum's collections celebrate the culture, heritage and future of Qatar and its people. The exhibitions reveal the natural history of the desert and the Persian Gulf, the Bedouin culture, tribal wars, the establishment of the Qatari state, and the discovery of oil to the present. The combined collections in these two museums provide an excellent insight into Islamic and Qatari life and history in fantastic surroundings.
Despite being a desert country, Qatar has some amazing green spaces. Along the Corniche, you can find MIA Park and Al Bidda Park. MIA Park has a lovely wide pathway running around its length with large grassy areas for picnics, relaxing and playing. Along the park's waterfront, there is a good cafe and toilets. The park hosts all kinds of events; it has a weekend bazaar, a vast playground and boat rental. Al Bidda Park, across its 2 million square metres, offers a host walkways and cycle lanes, horse and camel tracks, landscaped gardens, water fountains, vast green spaces, children's shaded play areas, facilities for football, basketball and tennis, and an outdoor gymnasium. You can set up your own BBQ at one of the 41 barbeque stations and enjoy the views of the city, the Corniche and the Bay. There are cafes and a restaurant, toilets and underground parking.
The Pearl Monument at the entrance to the dhow harbour is a favourite place for taking photographs. With its fountain and distinctive shell shape, it is a reminder that before the discovery of oil and gas, Qatar's primary source of income was pearl fishing.
The Al Fanar Islamic Culture Centre is not just a striking structure; it offer a place of worship for Muslims and a place for non-Muslims to visit and to learn about the culture of Islam.
Abandoned Towns and Villages
For a host of reasons, Qatari ancestors have successively built and then moved away from villages and towns around the coast. While they lived there, people built forts for protection and mosques for places of worship. Today there are many abandoned places – many on the North West coast of the Qatar peninsula. Some have been re-constructed to support tourism, some integrated into new towns, and some just been left as ruins. They are all worth a visit and each one tells a tale of the Qatari people. The abandoned villages of Al Jumail, Al Arish, Al Khawayr and Al Daayen are now all ghost towns in various stages of ruin. They have in their time been pearl fishing centres, fishing and trading villages and, in the case of Al Khawayr, a pirate's base. In Al Ruwais, which was de-populated in 1948, the old police station has been restored and is now a museum, and the old mosque, which is the oldest in Qatar, has also been restored. The Al Zubarah Fort located at the abandoned village of Al Zubarah has been restored and is now a museum as is the nearby Al Thaqab Fort.
Qatar has a host of other attractions either on the coast or within easy reach of it. For a start, Al Wakrah souq is well worth a visit. Built-in the traditional style, the souq is a maze of alleys and courtyards stretching along the coast. It has scores of shops, restaurants and cafes dotted all through it and all along the beachside promenade. It is easy to spend time here wandering, shopping, enjoying a meal and joining in the busy evening atmosphere.
A Dhow boat cruise gives you a chance to go to sea on a traditional wooden boat. There are dhow harbours in Doha, Al Wakrah and Al Khor. You can choose what type of cruise you want and the price that suits you. Some trips offer an hour's sightseeing, some half a day and full-day cruises, cruises with picnics and BBQs and evening cruises. Whichever you pick, it is a fantastic experience to sail in boats used by Qatar's ancestors throughout the years.
A trip to explore the Zekreet peninsula on the West coast is a real adventure for 4X4 owners. There are unspoiled beaches, unique limestone rock formations, foothills and mesas and a host of wildlife, including ostrich, wild deer, Arabian Oryx and flamingos. And in the middle of nowhere, you can find a modern art sculpture, an abandoned city, archaeological sites and forts - a great place for an adventure, camping and swimming.
For a different kind of adventure, try a visit to the Al Thakira mangroves in the north of the Qatar peninsula. The most popular way to explore the forest is by kayak; take your own or hire one from a tour operator. Paddle through the muddy channels to see fish, crustaceans and resident and migrating birdlife including herons and flamingos.
There are some fascinating sites located near the Qatar coastline.
- At Al Jassasiya on the east coast near Fuwairit, you can find the Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings. There are hundreds of petroglyphs or rock carvings depicting fish, boats, footprints, mysterious round holes, scorpions and animals.
- At Ruwaida archaeological site on the northern tip of the peninsula, you can find the uncovered ruins of a substantial settlement thought to have been established in the 10th century and inhabited until the 18th century. The ruins were first unearthed in the 1970s, and excavations between 2011 and 2014 found many structures including wells, a fort, a mosque, a warehouse, a tomb and a workshop.
- Built-in the 19th century, and slightly inland at Umm Salal, Barzan Towers (meaning high place) are fortified watchtowers. They were built as part of a defence system for an oasis and wells in the area, as watchtowers, and possibly they provided an observatory for early astronomers.
For the explorer, there is a lot of history and insights into Qatari life at sites such as these.
And for something really different, try one of the many events that happen regularly in Qatar – for instance, the annual Marine Festival. Qatar's strong maritime heritage is celebrated at the Marine Festival at Doha's coastal cultural village, Katara. It has events that revolve around marine education, culture, environment, entertainment and sport. Festival-goers have the chance to learn about pearl fishing, fishing net weaving and dhow-building.
Plenty for Everyone
Qatar is a fascinating place to visit, there is always something going on, and it is continually changing and improving. Modern Qatar, historic Qatar, cultural Qatar and the natural world is all around you and easy to see. Enjoy it all.
To learn more about Qatar’s abundance of attractions in Doha and further afield, visit our Sightseeing pages of the website.
For a great day out with your nearest and dearest, check out this list of family beaches dotted along Qatar's shores.
If you want to visit a public beach but don't want to compromise on facilities, check out Qatar's free beaches with great amenities in offer.
For a myriad of outdoor activities by the sea, check out some of Qatar's finest adventure beaches.
When it comes to getting sand between your toes, Qatar has something for everyone, from cultivated beaches to remote and wild sandy shores.