Using the Middle East as a hub when travelling around the world is becoming an increasingly attractive option and this year we had a brief stopover in Qatar between the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
With approximately 20 hours between flights, we were keen to see a bit of this desert city state on the coast of the Arabian peninsula.
Do you need a visa for a stopover in Qatar?
As of October 2017, Qatar has become the easiest place in the Middle East for a stopover, offering visa-free access to 80 nationalities.
You don’t need to apply or pay for a visa. A multi-entry waiver is issued free-of-charge at the airport (you just have to present a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket).
There is a new e-visa platform for Qatar, through which travellers of all nationalities can easily apply for tourist and visitor visas.
A snooze and a swim
The Museum of Islamic Art
MIA is the absolute ‘must-see’ in Doha. Not only for the exquisite collection of art and artefacts from across the Islamic world over the past 14 centuries, but for the beautiful architecture and views of Doha from the cafe.
Wandering in Souq Waqif
After the museum we wandered along the Corniche looking at the hundreds of colourful wooden dhows in the marina to the Souq Waqif. We also had a good view of the mosque of Bin Zaid (full name the Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre) with its unusual spiralling minaret.
Souq Waqif is around 100 years old and what remains of the historic building has been carefully preserved in recent years so you can still see the traditional architecture, even though it serves a useful shopping function today. It’s possibly the only place in Doha you can get a feel for what this glittering modern city was once like.
The maze of narrow alleyways are mostly covered and there are streets devoted to clothing, spices, handicrafts and household wares. The street of pet stalls was a big hit with my daughter and she loved the wide variety of pets. It was difficult to tell if the living conditions of the animals was good behind the scenes but everything seemed well cared for and healthy. I was concerned to see a number of native birds from Australia for sale.
A local meal
After dinner headed back to our hotel to catch a few hours’ sleep before our long flight to New Zealand.
If you have a bit more time in Qatar…
You could combine this with a desert safari in a 4×4, maybe including a camel ride, sand boarding or quad biking. Further afield, to the north of Doha is the Al Zubarah Fort and archaeological site, and to the west the Zekreet Peninsula has unspoilt beaches and wind-carved rock formations.
So you see there is quite a lot to do on a stopover in Qatar!
By Natasha von Geldern
What did you do on your stopover in Qatar? For more information on visiting Doha see here.