Discovering Qatar

Head for exotic sights and some well-deserved winter sun in luxurious Qatar
You have to fly at least five hours away from the UK in winter if you want to bask in glorious sunshine. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Red Sea resorts of Egypt are always popular choices. Or how about Qatar?

In October Qatar Airways launched a daily Airbus A380 service from Heathrow to Doha, so you can fly there in great comfort now in around seven hours.

In fact, Qatar wants to increase tourist numbers from 2.6 million per year to more than 7 million by 2030. This, along with the planned 2022 Fifa World Cup, has resulted in a boom in hotel building.

There’s already the sparkling new Hamad International Airport, and it’s spending a fortune on promoting itself as a luxury destination, too.

Just as in Dubai and the other emirates, you can expect great hotels in the capital, Doha. The St Regis Doha has a spectacular pool, a gorgeous Remede Spa and a popular evening jazz club, or if you prefer a boutique, Al Jasra Boutique Hotel is very nice indeed.

The choice of restaurants is equally impressive. Head for the revolving Three Sixty restaurant at the Torch Hotel for amazing views, or Market by Jean-Georges at the stylish W Hotel.

Of course, there are ultramodern shopping malls, too. The Pearl Qatar, a residential and retail development built on reclaimed land, for example, is stuffed with designer stores galore, from Armani to Hermès. There are also many restaurants, though currently alcohol is served only within five-star hotels.

You will find traditional culture as well. There’s Souq Waqif, with its cafes, restaurants and stalls selling spices, art and handicrafts.

I found the nearby falcon market utterly fascinating, full of beautiful birds of prey, some worth many thousands of pounds, kept by those who enjoy the ancient art of falconry.

Another of Doha’s must-sees is the Museum of Islamic Art and its wonderful pieces of antique jewellery, stunning ceramics and exquisite, carved wooden door panels and screens.

Further afield there’s Al-Zubarah Fort and Archaeological Site, Qatar’s only Unesco World Heritage site, which is interesting, but I wasn’t entirely convinced it was worth the journey.

For sure, dune bashing – you’re driven at speed across the desert in a four-wheel drive – is a fantastic experience, particularly seeing the beautiful landscape of the inland sea or Khor al-Adaid.

Qatar International Adventures can arrange many other excursions for you, including a Dhow Dinner Cruise, where you enjoy a tasty Middle Eastern meal aboard a traditionally designed wooden dhow.

And in between, there’s lots of lovely sunshine to soak up, even in the depths of a chilling British winter.

Abercrombie & Kent o™ffers a five-night holiday, staying at The St Regis Doha, from £1,575 per person, including Qatar Airways flights, private transfers and a private tour including the Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif.

0845-618 2200,

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