*In paid partnership with Qatar Airways
A Doha Stopover has become familiar for many in the past couple of years. While a one-day
stopover is enough to give you a good understanding of the city, Doha and Qatar has so much more to offer. Qatar Airways is constantly awarded as one of the best airlines in the world with their outstanding service and Business Class product. The airline offers great connections via Doha to for example, to Africa, Asia and Australia. This time, as I have visited Doha several times, I decided to do a day trip to North of Qatar.
Read more: Airline review: Qatar Airways
On your first stopover in Doha, I recommend you get to know the city’s most popular sights either
with your own driver or on an organised tour.
The city tour in Doha doesn’t have to be booked beforehand. You can book it on a counter as you arrive at
the airport in Doha. The city tour stops at the most important sights in the city: Katara, The Pearl,
Museum of Islamic Art and Soul Waqif.
During my first stopover in Doha, I booked a driver for four hours and visited the same sights a city
tour with a group normally stops at. With my own driver, I had more time, for example, at the Souq
Waqif, and I was able to take my time to explore the destination while keeping things easy. I booked
my transport at the counter at the airport.
Read more: Stopover in Doha: 12 most common questions
Read more: Stopover in Doha
Stopover in Doha: day trip to North of Qatar
When you’ve already seen Doha and your travel plans include a stopover in Qatar, look for options
further away from the capital. Doha might, of course, be your destination and not just a stopover.
My friend and I just spent five days in Qatar, and I feel like the country still had more to offer.
In addition to Doha, popular destinations for a day trip include North of Qatar, the west
coast, and the southern desert safaris. We weighed these options during our trip and decided on a
cultural day trip to the northern coast of Qatar.
Our tour was organised by Stopover Qatar. I have used their services for several of my trips to
Qatar. The website of the company is still fairly new. You can book a day trip to North of Qatar here.
The trip took six hours, and if you have booked a private tour for your group, the schedule for the
day can be adjusted as needed. The pick up was from our hotel in Doha.
The fishing village of Al Khor
Al Khor and Al Thakira are some of the most important cities of northern Qatar. Al Khor is located 50 kilometres from Doha. The city is a popular first stop on the tours to the north. This city, older
than Doha, used to be known for pearl diving.
We didn’t stop at Al Khor this time, but I wanted to mention it because it is one of the most popular places to stop.
Al Shahaniya’s camel city
We started our day trip to North of Qatar at 9 am at the Souq Waqif in Doha and headed out to our first stop, Al Shahaniya. Al Shahaniya is not usually part of the day trip to the northern coast, but the organisers agreed to one additional stop.
Camel racing is a significant part of Qatar’s culture and history. The small city of Al Shahaniya is focused almost entirely on camels. As you walk down the streets, almost all shops have something to do with the wellbeing of camels from a camel vet to camel clothes and stores for hay. The city has competitions for camels, and they are sold for breeding and meat. Locals even have beauty pageants for camels over here.
You won’t see many women in Al Shahaniya, so my blonde friend and I were a strange sight for the locals. We were not disturbed except for some funny looks and photographs.
We didn’t happen to visit Al Shahaniya during camel races, but we did see the morning training on the race track. Often the riders used here in camel racing are small robots, especially when training the smaller camels. In the past, the riders used to be small children, but this caused a couple of more serious accidents as one can imagine.
Al Zubarah Fort
Around a hundred kilometres from Doha, on the north coast of Qatar on the Persian Gulf, lies the ruined town of Zubarah. Like Al Khor, Zubarah thrived as a centre for pearl diving from the 1700s to the beginning of the 1800s. The city was completely destroyed in 1811 and abandoned at the beginning of the 1900s.
The eerie atmosphere here is unusual, and in the middle of the dry desert stands the Al Zubarah Fort, which might be northern Qatar’s most famous sight.
Qatari postcards often feature the Al Zubarah Fort.
The ghost town of Al-Jumail
Talking about an eerie atmosphere, we went a little off route and visited the ghost town of Al-Jumail right next to Zubarah.
Al-Jumail is an abandoned fishing village left behind by the locals when the oil production expanded in the 1800s, leading to people moving to larger cities. The minaret of the town of Al-Jumail and some of its buildings are still standing at the seaside near the desert all by their lonesome.
For a time, the area was completely fenced off from the public, and entering this area was forbidden. At least as we visited, we were able to even go up the upstairs at the minaret, of course, at our own risk.
The most surprising destination of the day was definitely Fuwairit Beach, which reminded us more of Maledives than the dry Qatar desert. Fuwairit Beach is not necessarily automatically part of the day tour but definitely worth the visit, as you can see in the pictures below. The beach was tranquil, and there were only a few locals windsurfing.
Qatar is not known as a beach destination, but here it would definitely have been possible. The location of the beach is such that we probably wouldn’t have reached it without a car.
Authentic lunch experience at the petrol station
Our tour guide asked us even before the day of the tour what kind of lunch we would like to have during the day trip so that he could schedule the lunch break to the right time of the day. We told the guide that we would like to eat exactly where he would have lunch and enjoy some local food. So we stopped at what a petrol station with a small restaurant on the side, serving Qatari food. We asked our guide to order exactly the kind of dishes he would otherwise order, and we got to taste delicious traditional Arabic food. This to me is honestly the best way to travel and experience local culture!
The guide politely offered to sit at another table, but I think sharing lunch is the best way to get to know even more of the customs of the country, so we asked him to join us.
Important to know: how to dress in Qatar
In addition to what to do, see, and experience, I have received a lot of questions about how to dress in Qatar. It’s polite to pay attention to how you dress as you’re visiting a Muslim country. There is no precise dress code in Doha, and I did even notice tourists who wore tank tops and shorts not getting any disapproving looks – but still, please know better!
There is still not a lot of tourism in the northern parts of Qatar, so pay special attention to the dress code here. It’s polite to cover your shoulders and knees at all times. Very tight-fitting clothes are not the best choice for this part of the world. I usually wear a long skirt or dress and a shirt that covers my shoulders. In the north, I wore a headscarf for part of the day, but it’s not necessary.
Are you looking for more travel tips for Doha? Read all the Doha tips I have published here.