A first timer's guide to Qatar

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Host of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the Arab nation of Qatar packs plenty into a small package. Little more than a fishing village before the discovery of oil in 1939, its capital, Doha, is now a buzzing metropolis with a futuristic skyline that appears to expand by the day.

The downtown West Bay area of Doha from above © Anekoho - Adobe Stock Image
The downtown West Bay area of Doha from above © Anekoho - Adobe Stock Image

Home to one of the world's best airports, Doha has long been a popular stopover hub for international travellers. And there are now more reasons than ever to extend a visit, from world-class museums and galleries to adventure and family activities, shopping galore and an impressive array of dining options mirroring the nation's rich cultural diversity.

Getting to Qatar: check out the latest deals on flights with Qatar Airways*, which departs from London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh.

An introduction

Traditional values run deep in Qatar, yet visitors will uncover a modern capital where alcohol is available in hotel bars and restaurants.

Dressing appropriately simply requires covering the shoulders and knees when exploring outside international hotels; bikinis are perfectly permissible at hotel pools and beaches. Arabic is the official language of Qatar, but English (taught in state schools) is widely spoken.

While prices for food and drinks in Doha can seem expensive, especially in hotels, an excellent metro system opened in 2019 offers a refreshingly cheap and efficient way to get around the city. Taxis and Ubers are also plentiful and surprisingly affordable. Here's what to see and do in Qatar's key districts.

Central Doha & West Bay

With Qatar's top attractions located in the heart of the city, it's easy to take them in during a short trip.

Reopened in October 2022 following a year-long renovation, the Museum of Islamic Art houses one of the world's largest collections of Islamic art in an iconic white building rising from the sea, with refreshed exhibits spanning antique carpets to intricate ceramics.

The magnificent National Museum of Qatar © Gilbert Sopakuwa - Flickr Creative Commons
The magnificent National Museum of Qatar © Gilbert Sopakuwa - Flickr Creative Commons

Close by, the National Museum of Qatar tells the nation's story via excellent exhibits; its similarly striking design inspired by a desert rose crystal cluster.

Another central must-see is Souq Waqif, a sprawling historic marketplace offering Qatar's best souvenir shopping and a good range of ethnic restaurants serving up everything from masgouf (Iraqi grilled fish) to machboos, a flavoursome rice dish known as Qatar's national dish.

Don't miss the regenerated downtown precinct of Msheireb nearby, where the free-to-visit Msheireb Museums occupy four historic houses.

The colourful, souvenir-heavy streets of Souq Waqif © Chris Stanley - Dreamstime.com
The colourful, souvenir-laden streets of Souq Waqif © Chris Stanley - Dreamstime.com

Meanwhile, little travellers will love Doha Quest, an indoor theme park boasting the world's tallest indoor roller coaster. Opened in 2022, the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, housed in the same complex as World Cup venue Khalifa International Stadium, offers another fun family activity.

Linking central Doha to the West Bay business district is the 7km-long waterfront Corniche, perfect for an evening stroll during Qatar's hot summer months. Here, visitors can board a traditional-style dhow boat for a daytime or evening cruise on Doha Bay.

While there's not much to see in West Bay, this modern district is home to most of Doha's international hotels (and bars), making it a popular base for international visitors.

Katara, the Pearl & Lusail

Just north of West Bay (and on the metro line), Katara is a purpose-built cultural village, with highlights including two beautifully tiled mosques and an enormous ancient Greek-style amphitheatre used for alfresco performances.

There's also a good range of restaurants and Doha's only public beach (swimwear must cover the shoulders and knees). There's also a planetarium and a Galeries Lafayette luxury shopping mall to explore.

Another short hop north is The Pearl-Qatar (known locally as the Pearl), a reclaimed land development resembling a string of pearls in a nod to the nation's pearling heritage.

Mother Nature statue at the amphitheatre in Katara © Carlo Orlando Patriarca - Dreamstime.com
Mother Nature statue at the amphitheatre in Katara © Carlo Orlando Patriarca - Dreamstime.com

Primarily a residential area, the neighbourhood is worth a visit for its circular yacht-studded marina and its colourful Venetian-inspired Qanat Quartier, complete with canals and a replica Rialto Bridge.

On the northern fringe of Doha is Lusail. Technically a city in its own right (albeit one largely still under construction in 2022), Lusail is rapidly notching up architectural icons of its own.

Designed to represent a burnished Islamic vessel, the gold-hued 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium, set to host the World Cup final, is suitably impressive.

And then there's the Katara Towers building housing Raffles and Fairmont hotels, its unusual design an ode to the scimitar swords on Qatar's national seal.

The recently-opened Place Vendome, an enormous shopping mall modelled on the Parisian retail precinct of the same name, can also be found in Lusail.

Beyond Doha

A handful of attractions lie beyond Doha's urban sprawl. Among the most popular day trips is a thrilling 4WD dune-bashing tour to Khor Al Adaid, Qatar's spectacular 'inland sea', where immense shifting sand dunes meet the turquoise waters of a tidal embayment system that naturally separates Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Rent a car or book a tour to discover more gems in the Qatari desert including Al Zubarah Fort on the northwest coast.

Built in 1938 to guard the coast, the restored fort, now a museum, forms part of Qatar's only UNESCO site. The Al Zubarah Archaeological Site also encompasses the ruins of a former pearling port not currently open to the public.

Dune-bashing on the 'inland sea' © A1 - Adobe Stock Image
Dune-bashing on the 'inland sea' © A1 - Adobe Stock Image

Northeast of Doha, a profusion of mysterious petroglyphs near the coast known as the Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings offer another fascinating window into Qatar's past, with nearly 900 rock carvings depicting fish, dhow boats, rosettes and more. The site is near some of Qatar's finest public beaches, so don't forget to bring your swimwear.

West of Doha, public art fans can seek out US artist Richard Serra's huge East-West/West-East installation rising out of the caramel-hued dunes.

On the way, don't miss the ultra-modern Education City Mosque, and the enormous Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum featuring cultural artefacts collected by the Qatari billionaire.

Qatar Football World Cup 2022

The Qatar Football World Cup will take place between 20 November and 18 December 2022 with 64 matches across eight stadiums in five host cities. Find out more about the stadiums, groups and fixtures below with our mini guide.

Teams by group

Thirty-two teams from around the world will compete in Qatar for the 2022 Football World Cup. Teams have been drawn into eight groups with two teams from each moving into the knockout stage.

The home nations of England and Wales have been drawn in the same group (B) and will play against each other on Tuesday 29 November 2022 at 19:00 (GMT).

  • Group A - Ecuador, Netherlands, Qatar, Senegal
  • Group B - England, Iran, USA, Wales
  • Group C - Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia
  • Group D - Australia, Denmark, France, Tunisia
  • Group E - Costa Rica, Germany, Japan, Spain
  • Group F - Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Morocco
  • Group G - Brazil, Cameroon, Serbia, Switzerland
  • Group H - Ghana, Portugal, South Korea, Uruguay

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Stadiums

The Qatar Football World Cup will be held across eight stadiums in five host cities including the capital, Doha. The final will be played in the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

England and Wales will play Group B matches across Khalifa International Stadium, Al Bayt Stadium and Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

Stadium Capacity A B C D E F G H
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium
Al Rayyan
45,000 Y Y     Y Y    
Al Bayt Stadium
Al Khor
60,000 Y Y     Y Y    
Al Janoub Stadium
Al Wakrah
40,000     Y Y     Y Y
Al Thumama Stadium
Doha
40,000 Y Y     Y Y    
Education City Stadium
Al Rayyan
45,000     Y Y     Y Y
Khalifa International Stadium
Al Rayyan
45,000 Y Y     Y Y    
Lusail Stadium
Lusail
80,000     Y Y     Y Y
Stadium 974
Doha
40,000     Y Y     Y Y

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Group stage fixtures

Find out the group stage fixtures for the Qatar Football World Cup with essential information including the UK kick-off time and where to watch the matches on TV. Both England and Wales are in Group B.

Match Date KO (UK) Fixture Group TV coverage
1 Sun 20 Nov 16:00 Qatar v Ecuador A BBC
2 Mon 21 Nov 13:00 England v Iran B BBC
3 Mon 21 Nov 16:00 Senegal v Netherlands A ITV
4 Mon 21 Nov 19:00 USA v Wales B ITV
5 Tue 22 Nov 10:00 Argentina v Saudi Arabia C ITV
6 Tue 22 Nov 13:00 Denmark v Tunisia D ITV
7 Tue 22 Nov 16:00 Mexico v Poland C BBC
8 Tue 22 Nov 19:00 France v Australia D BBC
9 Wed 23 Nov 10:00 Morocco v Croatia F ITV
10 Wed 23 Nov 13:00 Germany v Japan E ITV
11 Wed 23 Nov 16:00 Spain v Costa Rica E ITV
12 Wed 23 Nov 19:00 Belgium v Canada F BBC
13 Thu 24 Nov 10:00 Switzerland v Cameroon G ITV
14 Thu 24 Nov 13:00 Uruguay v South Korea H BBC
15 Thu 24 Nov 16:00 Portugal v Ghana H ITV
16 Thu 24 Nov 19:00 Brazil v Serbia G BBC
17 Fri 25 Nov 10:00 Wales v Iran B BBC
18 Fri 25 Nov 13:00 Qatar v Senegal A BBC
19 Fri 25 Nov 16:00 Netherlands v Ecuador A ITV
20 Fri 25 Nov 19:00 England v USA B ITV
21 Sat 26 Nov 10:00 Tunisia v Australia D BBC
22 Sat 26 Nov 13:00 Poland v Saudi Arabia C ITV
23 Sat 26 Nov 16:00 France v Denmark D ITV
24 Sat 26 Nov 19:00 Argentina v Mexico C ITV
25 Sun 27 Nov 10:00 Japan v Costa Rica E ITV
26 Sun 27 Nov 13:00 Belgium v Morocco F BBC
27 Sun 27 Nov 16:00 Croatia v Canada F BBC
28 Sun 27 Nov 19:00 Spain v Germany E BBC
29 Mon 28 Nov 10:00 Cameroon v Serbia G ITV
30 Mon 28 Nov 13:00 South Korea v Ghana H BBC
31 Mon 28 Nov 16:00 Brazil v Switzerland G ITV
32 Mon 28 Nov 19:00 Portugal v Uruguay H ITV
33 Tue 29 Nov 15:00 Netherlands v Qatar A ITV
34 Tue 29 Nov 15:00 Ecuador v Senegal A ITV
35 Tue 29 Nov 19:00 Wales v England B BBC
36 Tue 29 Nov 19:00 Iran v USA B BBC
37 Wed 30 Nov 15:00 Poland v Argentina C BBC
38 Wed 30 Nov 15:00 Saudi Arabia v Mexico C BBC
39 Wed 30 Nov 19:00 Tunisia v France D BBC
40 Wed 30 Nov 19:00 Australia v Denmark D BBC
41 Thu 1 Dec 15:00 Croatia v Belgium F BBC
42 Thu 1 Dec 15:00 Canada v Morocco F BBC
43 Thu 1 Dec 19:00 Japan v Spain E ITV
44 Thu 1 Dec 19:00 Costa Rica v Germany E ITV
45 Fri 2 Dec 15:00 South Korea v Portugal H BBC
46 Fri 2 Dec 15:00 Ghana v Uruguay H BBC
47 Fri 2 Dec 19:00 Cameroon v Brazil G ITV
48 Fri 2 Dec 19:00 Serbia v Switzerland G ITV

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Knockout stage fixtures

Below you'll see the knockout stage fixtures for the Qatar Football World Cup. The TV broadcasters will be confirmed after the group stage is complete.

Match Date KO (UK) Fixture TV coverage
49 Sat 3 Dec 15:00 Winners A v Runners-up B tbc
50 Sat 3 Dec 19:00 Winners C v Runners-up D tbc
51 Sun 4 Dec 15:00 Winners D v Runners-up C tbc
52 Sun 4 Dec 19:00 Winners B v Runners-up A tbc
53 Mon 5 Dec 15:00 Winners E v Runners-up F tbc
54 Mon 5 Dec 19:00 Winners G v Runners-up H tbc
55 Tue 6 Dec 15:00 Winners F v Runners-up E tbc
56 Tue 6 Dec 19:00 Winners H v Runners-up G tbc
Match Date KO (UK) Fixture TV coverage
57 Fri 9 Dec 15:00 Quarter-final
Winners of 53 v Winners of 54
tbc
58 Fri 9 Dec 19:00 Quarter-final
Winners of 49 v Winners of 50
tbc
59 Sat 10 Dec 15:00 Quarter-final
Winners of 55 v Winners of 56
tbc
60 Sat 10 Dec 19:00 Quarter-final
Winners of 51 v Winners of 52
tbc
61 Tue 13 Dec 19:00 Semi-final
Winners of 57 v Winners of 58
tbc
62 Wed 14 Dec 19:00 Semi-final
Winners of 59 v Winners of 60
tbc
63 Sat 17 Dec 15:00 Third-place play-off
Losers of 61 v losers of 62
tbc
64 Sun 18 Dec 15:00 Final
Winners of 61 v Winners of 62
tbc

Please note: match and TV schedule subject to change. All kick-off times above in GMT.

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Weather in Qatar

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Qatar has a hot dry desert climate with very little rain. In fact, there are typically only 15 days in the year when any rain is recorded. Consequently, there is little vegetation.

There is plenty of sunshine with over 10 hours a day during the summer and never fewer than eight hours in winter. Winter is the time of year when most people choose to visit as both temperatures and humidity levels are bearable.

It can be quite a different story in summer. From May to September temperatures during the day often reach 40°C or higher. This is tolerable when humidity levels are low; the classic hot dry desert climate, but conditions are not always dry.

Over the Persian Gulf in summer there are high levels of evaporation, and moist air can drift in from the sea causing humidity levels to rocket, sometimes very rapidly. It can, in fact, become dangerously hot very quickly, so always check the weather forecast.

Luckily by November the heat of summer is past and humidity levels are moderate again. Expect nine hours of sunshine a day and sea temperatures at a very pleasant 27°C.

Planning a trip to Qatar

Heading to Qatar for the World Cup? Find out everything you need to know from where the airport is located to the very latest offers on flights, hotels and other types of accommodation right here.

Flights

International flights to Qatar are served by Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) which is located just over 5 miles (9 km) to the southeast of the centre of Doha.

Qatar's national airline Qatar Airways* flies directly to airports in the UK. British Airways* offers flights between London and Doha.

Other international flights operate connecting flights between Qatar and the UK including KLM*, Iberia*, Lufthansa*. One of the cheapest routes is via Dubai with Fly Dubai and Emirates*.

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Hotels & holiday accommodation

Qatar has a wide range of hotels and resorts from popular international hotel chains including Hilton, Radisson, Marriott and IHG.

Choose where to stay whether you're after 4-5 star luxury hotels or 2-3 star budget accommodation. Explore options for the following hotel chains.

If you'd prefer to book a holiday package, combining a hotel stay and flights, consider searching for deals with BA*, Travel Republic* or Expedia*.

Private holiday rentals including apartments, villas and hotels are available from VRBO* and Booking.com*.

MSC Cruises* will be offering cruise ship hotels in Doha during the Football World Cup. It also offers cruises that stop in Doha while voyaging around the Middle East.

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Ready to discover Qatar? Check out the latest offers on flights, holidays and more to Qatar.

Explore a world full of adventure with Qatar Airways

More about Qatar

  • Top deals & discounts
  • Qatar weather overview
  • Qatar climate averages by month
  • More destinations
  • Best time to go to Qatar
  • Qatar 5-day weather forecast

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Sarah Reid

Sarah Reid
Posted on Thursday 27th October 2022 in: City guides Culture Middle East Winter sun

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