The country’s history and society are as fascinating as its stunning landscape and multicultural population. To celebrate Qatar, we have compiled a list of some amazing facts about the country. We bet you didn’t know all of them.
The Story Behind Qatar's National Day
Qatar National Day is on December 18. It was established in 2007 by then-crown prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, widely credited with unifying Qatar’s local tribes – giving them autonomy and a sense of identity. He was instrumental in keeping external influences such as the British at bay. Qatar initially celebrated the holiday on September 3, coinciding with the country’s independence in 1971, but later changed the date to December 18 since it had more significance.
National Day in Qatar is a tribute to numerous struggles for independence, from Bahrain’s Al Khalifas to the British. Qataris remember their core values of pride, solidarity, and loyalty on this day.
Home to the World's Best Airline
Don’t just take our word for it. Qatar Airways regularly bags the title of Airline of the Year. It has won the award seven times – a feat no other airline has yet accomplished.
Among its other accolades are Best Business Class, Best Business Class Airline Lounge Dining Experience, and Best Airline in the Middle East. What sets the airlines apart? A host of premium experiences and impeccable airport and in-flight services.
Social Etiquette When Visiting a Qatari Home
The best way to experience Qatari culture is in people’s homes. Being invited into a Qatari home is a wonderful honor, and one must follow the proper social etiquette. It is good to greet family members according to seniority and status. Some people may not prefer to shake hands, but will instead hold their right hand on their heart as a greeting.
Sharing a meal is central to creating bonds in Arabic culture. Visitors will be invited to sit cross-legged on the floor and eat with their hands. Before entering a home, check whether you are expected to take off your shoes.
First Arab Country to Host Mondial
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. It also makes history as one of the only venues to hold the tournament in winter. Qatar made its bid to host the World Cup in 2009, garnering enormous support from the member states of the Arab League.
It won the highly-coveted hosting rights in 2010, beating out countries such as Australia, Japan, the USA, and South Korea. Since winning the bid, Qatar has undertaken massive initiatives – from infrastructural and economic development to football-centric community programs.
Al Bayt Stadium
Located 46 km from Doha in Al Khor, the Al Bayt stadium’s design is an homage to the "bayt al sha’ar" — tents used by the nomadic communities of Qatar. The uniquely Qatari design honors the ancient history and traditions of the people while looking to the future.
Apart from the eye-catching 60,000-capacity stadium, the surrounding precinct, with expansive green spaces, restaurants, and coffee shops, is a sight for sore eyes. The Qatar government envisions the stadium as a vibrant community hub for the Al Khor people even after the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Few things compare to an evening of sailing a dhow along the corniche. What is a dhow? It is a traditional Qatari ship, integral to the country’s maritime heritage. Before the oil industry took over, people used the dhow for fishing, transporting goods, and pearl diving.
The Dhow Festival aims to keep these traditions alive through shows, cultural activities, music, food, art, and ship-building workshops. While scholars remain divided on the dhow’s precise origins, most believe the ship originated in India around 600 AD. Many of the vessels still come from Kerala, India, even today.
Al Thumama Stadium
The magnificent Al Thumama stadium, with a capacity of 40,000 fans, is one of eight venues for the FIFA World Cup matches. The stadium’s unique design is inspired by the “gahfiya” — a traditional woven cap distinct to Arab countries. It symbolizes the region’s culture, dignity, and freedom. The stadium's name also comes from the indigenous Al Thumama tree.
Its state-of-the-art cooling technology is ideal for playing conditions all year through. After the World Cup, Qatar plans to reduce seating capacity by donating seats to numerous developmental projects worldwide.
"The Miraculous Journey"
“The Miraculous Journey” is an extraordinary sculpture that captures the beauty of the human reproductive process. The series of 14 bronze sculptures chronicles the entire life cycle of a human baby, from fetus gestation to birth. Fittingly, “The Miraculous Journey” stands outside the Sidra Medical Center in honor of women and children everywhere.
This spectacular work of art is the brainchild of artist Damien Hirst. “Everyone talks about life’s journey, but we have a whole journey before we’re born,” said Hirst.
George Michael in Qatar
In November 2008, George Michael became the first openly-gay musician to perform a concert in Qatar. The event was enormously successful, going off without any glitches or controversies. Like in many Middle East countries, homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and punishable by imprisonment, fines, or even death. The death penalty, however, is only applicable to Muslims under Sharia law, although the country hasn’t resorted to these extremes so far.
Despite negative perceptions about the LGBTQ community in Qatar, the government has stated that everyone is welcome to attend the FIFA World Cup — provided they refrain from PDA and respect Qatar’s culture.
Katara Cultural Village first opened its doors to the public in 2010. Since then, it has become the go-to destination for culture and art enthusiasts. Katara is a self-styled cultural village committed to preserving Qatar's rich history and heritage. Inside the village are numerous landmarks and attractions.
From museums and masjids to art galleries and planetariums — there is something here for everyone. Katara also has a beach and green spaces to unwind, along with stores for the retail therapy everyone needs.
The Golden Masjid Qatar
Located in the heart of Doha, the Golden Masjid is one of the most stunning mosques in the city. Constructed in the Ottoman style, thousands of golden tiles cover the mosque, and its minaret shines a beautiful gold, shimmering in the desert sun.
The monument is an homage to old Qatari mosques while incorporating the best of modern architecture. While it is mainly a place of prayer and sanctuary, religious scholars frequently organize lectures, courses on the Quran, and other religious programs here.
Ardha Sword Dance
Ardha is a folk dance common at Qatari weddings and on special occasions such as Eid-ul-Fitr or Qatar National Day. Its origins go back to ancient Bedouin traditions to demonstrate the strength of a tribe before heading to war. Ardha was a glorious display of weaponry and power, boosting a tribe’s morale in anticipation of victory. Qatari men today still dance the Ardha to show off their strength.
The communal dance sees men holding swords and moving to the beat of drums while facing each other. Dancers recite ancient Nabati or Bedouin poetry, also affectionately known as “poetry of the people.”
Qatar National Convention Centre
Even convention centers are anything but ordinary in Qatar. Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) is among the most cutting-edge buildings in the world. QNCC uses green technology for construction that meets the gold certification of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED).
This stunning venue hosts numerous regional and international events such as concerts, theater productions, international conventions, exhibitions, banquets, and galas.
Qatar Flag Significance
On the fly side of the Qatari national flag is a large maroon band, and on the hoist side is a broad white band with nine white points. The maroon in the flag honors people who lost their lives during an era of bloodshed and conflicts in Qatar. White is a symbol of peace.
Following the Qatari-British treaty of 1916, Qatar is now the ninth member of the "reconciled emirates," as shown by the nine-pointed serrated edge.
The Unique Doha Fire Station
Not long ago, the Doha Fire Station was an actual fire station. Today, the building is a vibrant art hub with a nine-month Artist in Residence program. Constructed in 1982, it was once the home of Qatar’s first civil defense authority. The Qatar Museum repurposed the building in 2012 and gradually transformed it into a buzzing creative and arts space.
From larger-than-life murals to immersive exhibitions by top-tier international artists, the Doha Fire Station is an art lover’s Mecca. Don’t miss the bright red food truck that used to be the second-oldest fire truck in all of Doha.
Stadium 974 is a temporary venue with a compelling origin story. Located near the scenic Doha coastline, the structure was made entirely from shipping containers — a tribute to Qatar’s historic seafaring and trade traditions.
The stadium makes history as the world’s first demountable covered football stadium. Fun fact: 974 is also Qatar's international dialing code. The venue is temporary, but its legacy will live on after the World Cup as a vibrant community waterfront and business hub.
Al Wakrah Dhow Harbor
The Al Wakrah harbor is one of the best places for dhow spotting in Qatar, once the most northernmost port along the infamous Pirate Coast. Al Wakrah was a small fishing and pearling spot during the early 1900s that gradually turned into a mooring point for 250-300 boats.
The harbor reopened to the public in 2017. While you won’t find pearl divers or pirates today, Al Wakrah offers stunning views and quiet spots to watch seafaring life go by.
Local Dating Scene
Dating, living together before marriage, and sex before marriage are technically illegal in Qatar. Qataris prefer meeting potential partners through a well-defined courtship routine. It usually involves families setting up matches. An engagement before getting to know a potential spouse is quite common in Qatar.
The fathers are integral to the courtship practice. Nothing can proceed without their approval and blessing. Expats in Qatar need to be discreet about dating. Getting caught can mean serious trouble, from arrests to deportation.
The Royal Family
The ruling Al-Thani family differs from other Arab royals. First, the family does not have a long-standing tenure in the kingdom. They are not descendants of Prophet Muhammad either, like other Arab rulers. The rise of the Al-Thani family owes its origins to imperial politics between the Ottomans and the British. Their power is intrinsic to the creation of an independent Qatar.
The current king of Qatar is HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. He has three wives, thirteen daughters, and eleven sons. Here he is pictured with his glamorous second wife, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned.
Qatar is the perfect destination for sandboarding; the dunes are ideal for sand boarders looking for a desert adventure! Sandboarding involves sliding down a dune on a board or traveling across while standing.
Qatar’s deserts have relatively softer sand, making it easy for anyone to try this exhilarating sport. Beginners can opt to stay strapped to the board. One of the best places for sandboarding in Qatar is Khor Al Adaid – a serene spot away from the city rush.
More Immigrants Than Citizens
Approximately 75 percent of Qatar’s population are immigrants — thanks to the wealthy gas industry and, recently, job opportunities presented by the FIFA World Cup 2022. Along with the country’s tiny indigenous population, Qatar is a case study for migration.
While the social and cultural assimilation has largely remained smooth, Qatar has received criticism for wilfully neglecting migrant worker rights. Immigrants enjoy legal protection in theory, but the scope depends on the nature of the work.
Falconry Is a National Obsession
Falcons have been revered in Qatar for centuries. Qataris follow falconry with the same enthusiasm as football. It is a national obsession and the best time to witness the sport is during the winter when these magnificent birds take flight in major races and hunts across the country. Owning a falcon epitomizes class, influence, and status in Qatari society. When not racing falcons, young men proudly walk the streets with their majestic birds perched on their wrists.
Downtown Doha is buzzing with specialist shops selling prized birds. The Government-run Falcon Hospital offers quality, subsidized medical treatment and massages for falcons, particularly during the hunting season.
Where Robot Jockeys Race Camels
Camel racing is an integral part of Qatari culture and among the cornerstones of its heritage. The sport's origins go back to the early Islamic period over 1,000 years ago.
Camel racing today is more professional, complete with domestic and international tournaments. But that’s not all. The races have pint-sized, remote-controlled robot jockeys! Fans gather at the Al-Shahaniya camel racing track an hour outside Doha for the dusty excitement that is camel racing!
Machboos, the National Dish of Qatar
Food is among the best ways to discover a country. One of the most popular dishes across Qatar is Machboos – a smoky rice and meat dish infused with several aromatic spices. Also called Kabsa, Machboos is packed with flavor.
Depending on where you are, Qataris make several variants. Chicken Machboos is a universal favorite. Lamb, fish, shrimp, and even camel meat are staples, too. Machboos is a staple across Eastern Arab countries and the undisputed national dish of Qatar.
Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium
Ahmed Bin Ali stadium lies at the edge of the desert in the historic city of Umm Al Afaei. It is home to Qatar's beloved Al Rayyan SC with or without the FIFA World Cup.
The stadium’s intricate design captures the beauty of desert flora and fauna, its façade resembling waves of dunes. For the 2022 tournament, the architects built the stadium around numerous existing trees and retained 80 percent of the construction material from the old structure.
The Iconic Mutaz Essa Barshim
If you don’t know who Mutaz Essa Barshim is, here’s why you should! Barshim rose from relative obscurity to become one of the best high jumpers in the world. For a country that doesn’t have a medal history in track and field sports, Barshim single-handedly changed all of that.
He won a bronze medal at the London Olympics in 2012 and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 2017 and 2019, Barshim bagged the World Championship titles. He is regarded as one of the best high jumpers in history, alongside legends like Javier Sotomayor, Stefan Holm, and Dietmar Mogenburg.
The spectacular Lusail is the biggest World Cup stadium in Qatar. Lusail was built to host matches at every tournament stage, including the highly-anticipated FIFA World Cup final on December 18, which coincides with Qatar National Day.
The stadium's façade, shape, and motifs reflect the rich history of art and architecture in the Arab world. It is the heart of Lusail city and aims to serve community needs.
90% of Qatar’s Population Live in the Capital
Home to more people than the rest of Qatar's cities combined, Doha is the backbone of the country. It became the country's capital in 1971 when Qatar gained independence from the British. Since then, Doha has seen medical, commercial, financial, and educational developments unprecedented in the Middle East.
Virtually everything tourists can hope to do and see in Qatar can be accomplished in Doha. From visiting historical sites and buying spices and foods from the local markets, to taking a sunset boat tour to breathe in the city sights, Doha is a full-bodied metropolis.
Traditional Wear for the Qatari Woman
The women in Qatar wear a long black dress called an “abaya” and cover their heads with a black scarf known as hijab or Shaylah (depending on the region). The abaya symbolizes respect and dignity in Qatar, covering the entire body from the neck to the feet.
Traditional Qatari clothes are designed to withstand scorching desert temperatures. They also epitomize modesty, a trait many Arab countries hold sacred. Deeply-conservative women in Qatar may also cover their faces with a burqa, leaving only their eyes uncovered.
Oxygen Park is a lush green oasis in the desert. Located in Doha’s Education City, Oxygen Park is a space that aims to encourage healthier and active lifestyles. The park’s expansive area of 130,000 square meters is ideal for a few hours of relaxation on the grass.
The more athletically inclined can run or walk on beautiful tracks around the park. Students from Education City and visitors frequent the park for some much-needed fresh air and downtime.
A Majestic National Animal
Qatar’s national animal is the Arabian Onyx which is endemic to the region. The desert antelope became extinct in 1972, but thanks to conservation efforts by private reserves and zoos, the onyx was reintroduced into the wild in 1980. Wild onyx populations have roamed Qatar and other neighboring countries since.
The onyx is a remarkable animal whose beauty and strength have inspired many poets from the Arabian Peninsula. Built to survive and thrive in a harsh desert environment, these animals can detect rainfall and vegetation (no matter how sparse) from miles away.
Al Zubarah Fort
Located in the ancient Northwestern town of Zubarah, the Al Zubarah Fort stands strong. The fort was built in 1938 as a coast guard station by Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani. Nowadays, it stands as a monument preserving the history and culture of the land.
The archeological site boasts pottery and other finds from recent digs that transport onlookers to both a distant, and not-so-distant, past. Al Zubarah Fort is over 105 km (65 miles) away from the capital city, so visitors looking for a true desert experience will find one here.
Qatar Has More Men Than Women
Many Middle East countries have more men than women, and Qatar is no different. Women make up a minuscule 23.47 percent of the population, glaringly evident in the souks and markets with an overwhelming male presence.
A cultural preference for male children is typical across the Middle East and Asia. Many also believe the abysmal female-to-male ratio is due to a large immigrant worker population. 85.7 percent of the population is foreign – mainly men who immigrated to work in Qatar's wealthy industries.
Where the Desert and Sea Meet
Qatar is home to one of the few places where the desert and sea collide. Khor Al Adaid, or Inland Sea, is a stunning natural reserve located at the entry point of the Persian Gulf Sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has miles of spectacular desert running alongside pristine seas – dunes perfect for running or skating.
Khor Al Adaid is ideal for wildlife lovers. Keep an eye out for humpback dolphins, several crustaceans, reptiles, migratory birds, whales, and the Arabian onyx – Qatar’s national animal.
Qatar National Library
The Qatar National Library is an outstanding pillar of learning and teaching resources. Since its inception, it has become a cultural institution and among the best national libraries in the region. The 45,000 sq m library has state-of-the-art technology, around 1 million books, and over 50,000 e-books, periodicals, newspapers, and collections.
Among the top attractions are the fascinating Heritage Collection and Children’s Library. The Innovation Station is a favorite with artists, creators, and musicians who visit to tinker with new technology and unleash their creativity.
What Qatari Men Wear
It’s easy to spot a native Qatari on the streets just by looking at their clothes. People take pride in their culture and prefer donning traditional attire over contemporary clothes.
Traditional Qatari attire for men is usually a ‘thobe’ – a long, crisp white shirt worn over loose pants. Completing the look is a flowing headdress or “gutra.” The gutra is usually made from red or white cloth (sometimes both) and secured in place with a black rope known as “agal.”
The Villaggio Mall in Doha is globally-recognized for its luxury shopping. With beautiful architecture and indoor Venice-like canals, this is retail therapy at its finest. The mall is home to some of the world’s best fashion houses: Valentino, Gucci, Christian Dior, and Dolce & Gabbana.
Over 50,000 people visit the mall each day. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Qatar is a luxury shopper’s paradise.
It Receives Less Than 10 Days Of Rainfall a Year
It hardly ever rains in Qatar. Despite no mountains preventing rainfall and water on all sides – the country receives less than ten days of rainfall each year. The country’s location, along with the sun’s movement throughout the year, creates these unique conditions.
Doha is one of the driest capitals in the world, after Lima in Peru. However, Qatar has experienced unprecedented rains and thunderstorms recently. The country received 136 mm of rainfall in three weeks. Doha’s annual average is usually 75 mm.
Al Janoub Stadium
Al Janoub, located 23 km away from Doha, is the only FIFA World Cup stadium in Qatar built from scratch. With a capacity of 40,000, the stadium contains large green spaces and several sporting facilities such as a running track, horse riding areas, and a cycling track.
Qatar plans to reduce stadium capacity to 20,000 after the World Cup. Al Janoub stadium’s top tier will go as a donation to a country that will benefit from the infrastructure.
Peace and Calm at Zekreet Beach
Qatar’s cities are forever buzzing with activity, but the country contains pristine locations people can escape to for some quiet. Zekreet Beach is one of them. Located near the coast of Dukkan, Zekreet is made up of limestone and sand – making its landscape wholly unique.
Visitors will discover endless stretches with bays, dunes, and coves. The beach is ideal for leisurely evening walks with family and friends.
An Airport With a Giant Teddy Bear Worth Millions
One of the first things travelers notice at the retail center in Doha’s Hamad International Airport is a giant teddy bear with its head inside a mega table lamp. This is no ordinary teddy. Created by contemporary visual artist Urs Fischer, the bear is worth millions and is made from cast bronze.
The sculpture celebrates the beloved objects in a child’s life, such as a stuffed toy and a desk lamp. The bear is 7 meters (23 feet) high and inspired by the artist’s favorite childhood teddy.
Indulgence, Thy Name Is Qatar
Qatar is the wealthiest among the Arab countries and the fourth-richest globally. With a reputation like that, it is not surprising Qataris live life large. One of the best ways to experience it is a day at a luxury hotel. Case in point, the Doha Marriott’s 100-meter buffet!
Whether you want tacos, sushi, or falafel, this spread serves up everything. But there is a downside to living life king-size. Qatar is also one of the 20 most obese countries in the world. Approximately 70 percent of the population is overweight or obese.
It is easy to see why Box Park is the most happening location in Qatar these days. Made entirely from colorful recycled containers, Box Park is a quirky, completely Instagram-able location. Every Box Park establishment is housed inside containers — shops, grocery stores, cafes, and even elevators.
Located by the old Doha Port, Box Park offers stunning views of the marina and the Doha skyline. Walk up to the upper floor to spot iconic Qatari landmarks such as the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium and the National Museum of Qatar.
Khalifa International Stadium
Khalifa International Stadium isn’t just a sporting venue. It is an iconic Qatari cultural symbol with a long and rich history. The resplendent stadium has stood proudly since 1976 before undergoing renovation and redevelopment in 2014 for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qataris have witnessed several historic tournaments at the stadium. The venue hosted the Amir Cup in 2017 – the first tournament held at the stadium after it reopened. Besides a 48,000 seating capacity, Khalifa Stadium also contains VIP and hospitality suites, a hi-tech roof, and a sports museum.
Musfur sinkhole is one of the deepest accessible caves in Qatar. The cave has a deceptively tiny opening but contains a large chamber inside that extends further underground. Musfur contains beautiful rocks and sediments. Hundreds of birds and mammals call this place home.
Visitors can scramble into the cave any way they please since there is no discernible path. Besides checking out the rocks, one can also try bouldering or finding a quiet place for meditation.
Desert Climate and Temperature
Summers are unbelievably hot, while winters are mild in Qatar. The country has two main seasons — May to mid-October (scorching hot) and a cooler season starting December to February. For anyone planning to visit, November to March is an ideal period. These are the only four months when temperatures in Qatar aren’t blazing hot and uncomfortable.
If you happen to visit in the summer, remember to dress appropriately. Women visitors don’t need to wear an abaya or hijab. Modest, loose-fitting clothes that cover the shoulders and knees are considered acceptable for both women and men.
The Importance of Body Language
Hand gestures, while innocuous to outsiders, are serious business in Qatar. Inappropriate body language can get visitors into a world of trouble — from fines to imprisonment! The thumbs-up sign is particularly offensive — an insult similar to using the middle finger in the West.
Other hand gestures to avoid are using your finger to point at someone or something. Extending the palm is considered more polite. Additionally, it is wise to refrain from crossing your legs or making any gestures with your feet.
Education City Stadium
One look at Education City Stadium, and you know why the venue is called the “Diamond of the Desert.” The façade has complex geometrical patterns resembling a diamond with triangles that change color while catching sunlight throughout the day.
Located in the hub of Qatar’s research and education center, Education City Stadium aims to provide sporting facilities for the country’s youth — long after the FIFA World Cup. It also received a 5-star sustainability rating under the Global Sustainability Assessment System.
The Emir's Passion for Soccer
In 2013, Sheikh Tamim bin Hammad Al Thani became the newly-crowned emir, determined to make Qatar the most powerful country in the Middle East. Apart from his impressive pedigree, he was known for his love of sports — especially soccer and tennis.
The prince has since led numerous efforts to build Qatar’s international reputation through sports. He is the head of Qatar’s National Olympic Committee and the driving force behind the high-profile purchase of Paris Saint-Germain, a French football club. Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup would not have been possible without the Emir spearheading the effort.
The Doha Tower
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the Doha Tower is a more extravagant version of Dubai's Burj Khalifa. The skyscraper is part of government efforts to establish Doha as the cultural capital of the Gulf — evident in the unique design and signature dome that caps the cylindrical high-rise building.
The Doha Tower seamlessly integrates ancient Islamic design with state-of-the-art modern architecture — truly a thing of beauty along the waters of the Gulf.
Sunset Views From Al-Bandar
The most well-known harbor in Qatar is Al-Bandar, which is located across from Souq Waqif and Al-Fanar Center. It is home to the Pearl Factory and the Banana Island Ferry Port, with breathtaking corniche and skyline views of Doha at sunset!
Undoubtedly, Al-Bandar is the best place to unwind in the city after a long day. This urban oasis is a favorite with locals and visitors to enjoy solitude and tranquility.