Pearl of the Persian Gulf
Situated on a 100 mile-long peninsula that extends out into the western Persian Gulf, Qatar is a moderate Arab Emirate whose abundant gas and oil reserves provide citizens with one of the world’s highest standards of living. Though still not as progressive as its island neighbor Bahrain, Qatar now permits—albeit under tight regulation—the consumption of alcohol, and recent years have seen major improvements in the social and political status of women. Western tourists are unlikely to receive transit visas through Saudi Arabia, and ferry service to other Gulf countries is nonexistent, so most visitors’ only arrival option is a flight into Doha. The sleek, ultramodern skyline and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the capital city often lead to claims that it is a poorly-disguised imitation of Dubai. However, a closer look reveals Doha to be a unique and vibrant center of Arabic culture that defies easy comparison. One of the town’s newest additions is the stunning Museum of Islamic Arts, which was designed by architect I.M. Pei and opened in December, 2008. Other highlights include the Corniche, a seven kilometer seaside promenade that seems tailor-made for leisurely strolls, along with the adjacent Doha Fort and Qatar National Museum. However, no stay in Qatar would be complete without a visit to its famed Khor al Udeid, a picturesque inlet of the Persian Gulf near the Saudi border that is surrounded on all sides by sand dunes and sun-bleached cliffs.