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Thursday, 09 January, 2020, 11 : 47 AM [IST]

Qatar, Blend of Ancient & Modern Cultures

A visit to Qatar showcases how deftly modernisation is weaved into the ancient cultures. Disha Shah Ghosh who was in Qatar lately, shares her experience.

On mentioning Qatar, the first thought that comes to mind is the recent memory of the blockade in 2017. However, within minutes of landing at the world-class Hamad International Airport, all apprehensions are laid to rest watching the sheer number of passengers landing and transiting, a clear signal of how the State of Qatar has bounced back with vigour making Doha an attractive travel proposition, and its airport the hub for onward connections into the Americas and the UK. The state-of-the-art airport is a massive facility and a spacious architecture marvel, a luxury for those cramped for space.

The airport is just a minor introduction in the world of royalty and luxury. With a surge in Indian passengers and nationals working in Qatar, duty free shops have started accepting the Indian Rupee, negating the hassle of currency conversion.

On coming out from the airport, the first thing that catches the eye is the dedicated Airport Terminal built for the Royal family. Progressing towards the city, the hotel proposition of Qatar is on massive display with individual, family-owned and global hospitality brands across categories dotting Doha. This is a clear indication that Qatar means serious travel business having waived off visa requirement for nationals from 90 countries.

To delve deep into the history of the nation, a visit to the National Museum of Qatar is an apt move. The Museum offers a glimpse into the civilisations from as far as China and India that traversed to Qatar for trade purposes. Having deployed virtual reality techniques, the Museum showcases the old world of Qatar and its wildlife – a perfect introduction to a first-time visitor to the State.

Walking through Souk Waqif is a journey down the memory lane with Shisha lounges, restaurants serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, souvenir sellers and falcon shops dotting the area. Souk Waqif seems like the last remains in the old world while the country progress on the path of modernisation. The area is highly popular among tourists as well as business visitors for unwinding and shopping during evenings. It also houses The Village, an Indian restaurant that serves à la carte meals, largely from North India.

Qatar has set up a dedicated Council for Tourism to chalk out measures to create an exciting proposition for visitors with its line-up of events, including music concerts, and the global spectacle FIFA World Cup 2022. To host the world audience, construction of six massive stadiums is underway, with the biggest having a capacity to accommodate 80,000 spectators.

Doha and the local Qatari population have wholeheartedly opened their doors to welcome expats to explore work opportunities as well as world-class education. The Education City of Qatar has partnered with 7 universities in the US and the UK to offer courses of the home campus. It is an initiative by the Qatar Foundation for promoting education and community development, and also houses the National Library of Qatar, a repository of books on subjects like religion, culture and politics.

The massive exhibition venues of Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) (situated on Qatar Foundation's campus) and Doha Exhibition and Conference Center (DECC) are under 20-minute drive from Doha Airport, and offer the flexibility of choosing variety of venues for business events. The DECC offers connection to the Doha Metro for rapid transit. Both venues are in close proximity of accommodation facilities (hotels are just across the street of DECC). These facilities have hosted global trade exhibitions, large-scale weddings and offer the convenience of using technology to create graphical representations.

For shopping lovers, the Villaggio Mall is a paradise of more than 200 international brands. Built in Italian style, it also has a short canal offering the pleasure of a gondola ride, and the Gondolania Ice Hockey Rink.

For a true Middle-Eastern adventure, one can dedicate half a day to dune bashing on the inland sea of Khor Al Adaid. It a natural wonder with the sea facing the golden desert, and establishments have been set up for unwinding. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by across the rolling dunes.

The Katara Culture Village (diagonally opposite St. Regis Doha) as the name suggests is a tribute to art and culture, housing an amphitheater and exhibition halls to display one's creativity. It is also home to the Saffron Lounge which serves Indian cuisine with traditional flavours.
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