Doha has fast become the ideal travel stopover and holiday destination, named as one of the top places to travel to in 2019 by Forbes and The New York Times.

The year 2019 started on a high note for Qatar’s tourism sector with features in some of the world’s top travel lists. Regardless of the Qatar blockade, Doha, the capital of Qatar, has fast become the ideal travel stopover. 

Doha has been named as one of the ‘Top 15 Places to Travel in 2019’ on a list published recently by Forbes and ‘52 Places to Go in 2019’ by The New York Times (NYT).

10 Most Open Visa Countries in the World

In September 2018, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) named Qatar among ’10 Most Open Visa Countries in the World’. Qatar has become the most open country in the Middle East and the 8th most open in the world in terms of visa facilitation, due to Qatar’s recent visa facilitation improvements including allowing nationals of 88 countries to enter Qatar visa-free and free-of-charge. 

Thanks to Qatar’s new visa waiver upon arrival, which was introduced in November 2017, citizens of these countries will not need to apply or pay for a visa; instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued at the airport, upon presentation of a valid passport (valid for a minimum of six months) and a confirmed onward or return ticket. In November 2016, Qatar introduced a free transit visa, which allows passengers of all nationalities transiting in Qatar for a minimum of five hours to stay in Qatar for up to 96 hours (four days). In May 2017, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) launched +Qatar, an initiative to promote the country as a stopover destination, with the national carrier, Qatar Airways. These measures, along with intensified international marketing, resulted in a 39% increase in the number of stopover visitors during the first six months of 2017.

Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chairman of QNTC, said:

Openness and ease of access are crucial elements of the visitor experience. We have committed to making it a seamless experience, even as visitors plan their journey. We will continue to work with our partners on streamlining the immigration process at Qatar’s ports of entry, as well as ensuring that all visitor visas and visa procedures are electronic.’

UNWTO measures the mobility of citizens based on their ability to travel seamlessly to other countries. While Qatar currently ranks 106th in the world in terms of mobility, 20 of the countries benefiting from the Qatari visa waiver are already reciprocating, enhancing the mobility of Qatar’s citizens.

As a result of the visa waiver and UNWTO naming Qatar among ’10 Most Open Visa Countries in the World’, the country has been featured in a variety of international travel lists.

Top 15 Places to Travel in 2019

In the Forbes list, ‘Top 15 Places to Travel in 2019’, Doha secured 8th place, featuring a picture of the Imam Muhammad bin Abdulwahhab Mosque (State Grand Mosque).

Like Puerto Rico, Qatar has had to become more and more self-reliant since 2017, not because of a hurricane but rather due to a highly political Saudi blockade that has made it harder for goods and travellers from other points in the Middle East to enter the country. But instead of driving the people apart, it’s forced residents to come together, rallying their support around the ruling family, who is beloved for their focus on education (a dozen Western universities have campuses here), health care (several new hospitals have opened), sports (football stadium construction is afoot for the 2022 FIFA World CupTM), and the arts (the Jean Nouvel-designed National Museum of Qatar is slated to open in March),’ wrote Forbes.

‘If you’re flying Qatar Airways to Africa or Southeast Asia, you can take advantage of a stopover programme for visa-free entry for up to four days, which is more than enough time to shop for goods in the Souq Waqif and check out its too-cute-for-words Falcon Hospital, see horses train and race at Al Shaqab Equestrian Center, Imam Muhammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab Mosque, the stunning I M Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art, check out the artists in residence at the Fire Station art complex and Katara Cultural Center, and go dune bashing in the desert,’ added Forbes.

Topping the list is Montenegro followed by Chile; Perth, Australia; Chengdu, China; Puerto Rico and Egypt.

52 Places to Go in 2019

Qatar National Library (QNL)
Qatar National Library (QNL)

In the interactive New York Times’ (NYT) ‘52 Places to Go in 2019’, Doha is number 37, featuring an image of Qatar National Library (QNL). 

‘As the next men’s soccer World Cup approaches in 2022, the host nation, Qatar, is loading its capital with structures from the biggest names in international architecture. The sharp-angled, futuristic Qatar National Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas and his OMA firm, opened in 2018; 2019 will welcome the National Museum of Qatar, a sprawling expanse of interlocking tilted circular discs by Jean Nouvel. A contribution from a third Pritzker Prize-winner, the late Zaha Hadid, is also slated to materialise in the form of a swooping, curvaceous stadium; another stadium from the Pritzker-winner Norman Foster is also under construction. The new structures add further dazzle to the Doha skyline, which already includes Mr Nouvel’s syringe-like Doha Tower and the blocky white jumble of the Museum of Islamic Art, by I M Pei,’ wrote Seth Sherwood about Doha in the NYT article.

Doha follows Lyon, France and is followed by Batumi, Georgia. Doha is not the only country from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to make it to the list – Tunisia comes in at number 27. The first on the list is Puerto Rico followed by Hampi, India; Santa Barbara, California; Panama; Munich, Germany; Eilat, Israel; Setouchi Islands, Japan; Aalborg, Denmark; The Azores, Portugal; and Ontario Ice Caves, Canada among others.

Last but not least, in February 2019, CNN travel wrote about ‘Doha’s most over-the-top hotel suites’, which included E-Wow Suite at W Doha Hotel & Residences, Sky House and Opal Bridal Suite at Mondrian Doha, Royal Villa at the Sharq Village & Spa, and the Deluxe Suite at Musheireb Boutique Hotel.

What to see in Qatar in 48 hours?

The outdoors: Start by taking a stroll down the 7 km Doha Corniche (a dhow trip is highly recommended during your short stay) then continue on Qatar’s biggest and first pet-friendly park Al Bidda Park. Experience the more historic and cultural side of Qatar at Souq Waqif. Visit Katara for more cultural and artistic indulgence. Then take a drive around Qatar’s first and only artificial island, The Pearl-Qatar. Outside of Doha, enjoy watersports and desert fun at Sealine Beach, A Murwab Resort. Or enjoy the waters within the city at Doha’s luxurious paradise island Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara.

Museums: National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Msheireb Museums, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani (FBQ) Museum.

Mosques: Imam Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque (State Grand Mosque); Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS) Mosque also known as the Education City Mosque; HIA Mosque; and at Katara, the Katara Masjid and Golden Masjid.

Others: Souq Al Wakra; Qatar National Library (QNL); Aspire Park; Oxygen Park; Hotel Park and Zubarah Fort. There’s always more to see!

Touring options: Hop-on and Hop-off around Doha’s main landmarks with the Doha Bus while enjoying sightseeing around the city, whether day or night. See Doha from the sea 1with National Cruise, offering diverse cruise themes and voyages, which include food, sightseeing and day cruises. 

Read more in Qatar in 48 Hours!

Author: Ola Diab

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