We know it’s been a long, hard summer, cooped up inside. The good news is that it’s almost over. The even better news is that we at Time Out Doha spent all summer driving coast to coast, in over 50 degrees of extreme heat, to hunt down all the awesome spots in Qatar for you to head over to. We’ve mapped them out for you – if you always wonder where Umm Bab is, want to see how far Dukhan is from Umm Said or if you’re, well, geographically challenged. Problem solved. Grab your mix tapes, lots of snacks, sunscreen (of course) and rev up those engines because we’ve found the secret beaches, the ghost towns, the snorkelling locations and most importantly, the best places to set your sausage on fire (we mean barbecue, obviously).
GPS: 25.573903, 51.487584
This small seaside town has the first beach you will find when you hit the Shamaal highway from Doha, roughly 30kms later. It’s a nice, clean beach. Unfortunately, they’re not open all night, and do close entry to the public by 10pm, but if you want to a catch a nice late afternoon swim (in shallow water), and fire up the grill in the evening, you’re good to go. This beach is for families, primarily. There’s a football pitch, a playground, a park nearby and a really old mosque.
You’ll be happy to hear that as soon as you take the exit from Shamaal, you will find a Woqod fuel station a few kilometres ahead (yes, we were relieved too). There’s a Sidra for you to stock up, and even a couple of shops and restaurants in the town.
Looking for a little luxury? Head over to Simaisma Resort, indulge in their lush interiors and spend the weekend in style, in your own three bedroom villa with a private pool. There are recreational activities including basketball courts, gyms and a water sports centre. Simaisma, A Murwab Resort (4479 9555).
2 Al Khor Family Beach
GPS: 25.678206, 51.538222
Move a little further up, and you will reach Al Khor family beach, the most popular spot for families and barbecues. They have parking, showers and toilets, playgrounds and limited areas of shade. The entire area is secured by fencing. It’s also a nice drive, if you’re coming from Doha.
Al Khor Park is rather stunning, and really not something you’d expect to find in this locality. The park has a lush green landscape, a few water fountains around, a miniature golf course (random, but true), a small, battery operated train, an amphitheatre, a skating rink and cafeterias. The most exciting part about coming here is getting to visit their tiny zoo. You can find zebras, oryx and lots of exotic birds. Yes, your kids are really going to appreciate you, finally. QR5. Open daily 8am-10pm (Fridays closed).
You can also visit Sultan Beach Resort, which is located near Al Khor marine. They have a nice pool, in case you were wondering.
3 Al Farkeeh Coast
GPS: 25.680179, 51.538308
While we are still in the region, check out the Farkeeh Coast in the Al Khor municipality. This place is rather dry and from its looks, you’re immediately going to think there’s nothing you can do here. They have, however, recently added a cafeteria and some lighting. There’s a family section and a play zone, but not much else. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, drive further on to find a strip of land that’s almost always isolated (you're welcome). We don’t recommend swimming here (it's too shallow and rocky). This place is great for shallow net fishing and then barbecuing your catch. Tandoori crabs are on our minds now.
4 Al Thakira Mangroves
GPS: 25.742060, 51.557683
This was one of Doha’s best kept secrets a few years back, but with several tour operators emerging and offering reasonably priced kayaking trips through the beautiful mangroves on Purple Island, it’s become one of the absolute must-do things for visitors and residents. We love the contrast of greenery in the midst of Qatar’s deserts. There’s a bit of walking in shallow water over rocks to reach the destination, so make sure you have appropriate footwear.
If you are lucky enough, you can actually see flamingos and lots of exotic birds around in the winter months.
If you have your own kayak (we’d be suspicious why you do), then you don’t really need a tour operator. But if not, there are lots of agencies offering day trips here.
Al Thakira/Dhakira beach has sharp rocks and isn’t exactly great for swimming but there is a play area for children. The nearest public toilet is located at the Al Dhakira Marina. You’ll find lots of speedboats stationed there, and parking for up to 30 cars. Just bring your own food. This is also a popular fishing spot among the locals, so grab your gear.
5 Al Jassasiyah Beach
GPS: 25.980718, 51.400568
Very few people know about this beach and that’s the best part – it’s almost always empty. Beautiful turquoise waters, warm and soft sands and absolutely nothing else around you makes for a perfect spot to set up camp and lug a barbecue. You’ll almost feel like you’re not in Qatar anymore but don’t get too carried away with your floating-on-the-sea dreams. The water is pretty shallow and not suitable for swimming. It is, however, perfect for walking because there’s nothing better than the feeling of your feet sinking in to soft sand. Calling all privacy junkies, now!
Take a break from all the museums and witness some beautiful ancient art at Jebel Jassasiyah. The petroglyphs here contain around 900 artworks, believed to be dated from the Neolithic era. Yes, we thought this was pretty cool too and we headed over to check it out, only to find the gates locked and no security around whatsoever. This might be temporary though, and even if you don’t get to see the actual rock carvings, you’ll appreciate the scenic drive here. We can affirm it's one of the few places in Qatar where you can see green shrubs practically everywhere.
6 Maroona Beach
GPS: 26.003744, 51.399370
Also known as the French Beach, this beach is located just before Fuwairit and is a great spot for swimming, barbecuing and camping. The super soft sand is perfect for sandcastle-building time with the family. There’s absolutely nothing around though, so bringing your own food, a large umbrella, beach mats and lots of water is highly recommended. These waters are also known to have jellyfish, so it might be a good idea to watch where you’re swimming.
7 Fuwairit Beach
GPS: 26.039893, 51.366963
This is the most popular beach in Doha, besides Sealine. Residents love the soft sand here and the clear blue waters. Weekends feature lots of screaming kids, and it's packed with families barbecuing and setting up tent, although it’s not exclusively a family beach. Swimming is a great idea here, as is kitesurfing. You will actually find lots of kitesurfers every weekend. If you’re trained, just go join them. They’re usually friendly. Usually. If not, take a class. You won't regret it.
Flo Kite School (55041039).
Jebel Fuwairit is located slightly away from Fuwairit beach. This off-the-beaten-path beach has a lot lesser crowd than Fuwairit, and is hence more popular among the younger crowds. The view from atop the rocks is spectacular, and you might even spot dolphins in the early morning or night. The beach however, has sharp rocks, and getting here is a nightmare. You have to drive over large rocks and totally risk damaging your vehicle. If you do want to go here, ensure your 4WD has very good ground clearance so you don’t accidentally bump your petrol tank from below. This spot is a favourite among local rock-climbers.
8 Al Ghariyah Beach
GPS: 26.073159, 51.359690
Al Ghariyah became a popular camping spot in recent years and we’re not surprised why. It has to be one of Doha’s best beaches. It’s clean, easy to access even without a 4WD and is excellent for swimming. We love barbecuing here. Try something different – take an aluminum tagine and make an authentic Moroccan recipe over the grill.
Al Ghariyah Resort is located a few kilometres from the beach and while it isn’t exactly the most luxurious resort around, it’ll do if you’re looking for a slightly better set-up than the outdoor camps. If you drive further on towards the left (if Al Ghariyah Resort is on the right), you’ll reach a fenced area with huts. This is the perfect spot to camp, especially if you are with family. In the last year, we’ve seen an increasing number of caravans too. The huts are very convenient, especially when it’s too hot outside and there are showers and bathrooms as well. They’re pretty strict about allowing only families inside. So no, you and the boys will not be allowed to enter. They’ve also started renting out dune buggies here, although, the experience here pales in comparison to the one in Sealine, where there are actual dunes and mounds.
9 Al Mafjar
GPS: 26.134741, 51.303599
This little hamlet has a lot to its credit. Al Mafjar is now an abandoned village, easily recognisable by the fences around it. There are mangroves nearby and, yes, an undiscovered, unspoiled beach that some people know as Umm Tays. The water is clear (and deep) and if you’re going alone or have small children, this beach isn’t advisable unless you stay in the shallow channel. A 4WD is definitely recommended.
If you have an average snorkelling experience on your mind, this is your spot. You can also kitesurf here when the weather permits. Just make sure you bring all your equipment with you, because there’s nothing around. There’s also no shade, so you better pack that large umbrella your aunt gave you as a birthday gift. Just around the corner is the Umm Tais National Park, a protected habitat for birds and other animals.
10 Northernmost tip of Qatar
GPS: 26.125920, 51.180480
The northernmost tip of Qatar is exciting for a lot of reasons. We are not going to mention the cheesy screenshot that you can take of your GPS that will show the blue dot at the top most point in Qatar. Our favourite thing to do here is drive along the coast. It’s one of the few places in Qatar where you can have an actual coastal drive, and in the afternoons, you’ll love watching the sun shining over the blue waters.
There are two parks nearby – Abu Dhalouf and Al Shamal. Right outside the first park is Abu Dhalouf beach, that’s basically an extension of the park but much more green. The good news is that you don’t need a 4WD and this beach has toilets, showers, benches and two playgrounds. This, to us, is the perfect barbecue atmosphere. The Al Ruwais Fishing Village is also pretty close by, if you want to get a closer look at Qatar’s archaeology. Plus, some great Arabic food can be found at Iskander kebab, which is in the adjacent town.
The good stuff isn’t over. Did you know there’s a spot in Qatar where you can see the Milky Way? Galactic Core Bay didn’t exist until a few years ago, when a brunch of talented photographers (Hammad Iqbal and friends) discovered the spot, and even named it themselves. Qatar is pretty exciting that way (no, you can’t name a random spot after yourself). Make sure you have your camera with you, and you’re in a 4WD, because this is something you just can’t miss.
11 Al Khuwair Ghost town
GPS: 26.068919, 51.083972
This old fishing village is located northwest of Qatar and has the remains of several houses, a mosque and fishing equipment. It shows how life used to be, before oil was discovered, if you’re into that kind of thing. The place overlooks a beach and you can spot some dead marine animals on the shore. Don’t get too close. Who knows what (or who) else you might run into?
A few more abandoned fishing villages are in the vicinity. Al Jemail, Al Areesh and Al Ruwais are quite similar, but if you’re visiting one, might as well check them all off your list.
GPS: 25.976929, 51.045496
UNESCO has recognised Zubarah as a World Heritage Site and we think this is one of Qatar’s top archaeological spots to visit. Zubarah Fort was built in 1938 and used by the armed forces until roughly 30 years ago. It is now a museum with various artwork, pottery and other exhibits. It is worth driving around the town and glancing at the ruins of ancient settlements.
GPS: 25.597897, 50.827828 (Zekreet west beach), 25.637012, 50.846186 (Zekreet north beach)
If you drive further on down towards Dukhan, you’ll find signs that say Exit to Zekreet. Take the exit. Zekreet is an absolute must-visit location. We’ve heard stories of the beautiful sunrises here and we know it’s all true. This whole area is fascinating – limestone formations are scattered all around to create Qatar’s very own version of the Grand Canyon. While this might be a slight exaggeration, words can’t do justice to what you can expect here – a treasure trove of cliffs and ridges. These unique limestone cliffs offer unusual surroundings and make this the most perfect area to camp out at.
The Musfir Sinkhole is located inside the Zekreet desert and is an underground cave formation. Rock climbers love this place. Once you climb down, the temperatures start to drop and the feeling of air-conditioning in the middle of the desert is pretty great, we admit. If this doesn’t strike your fancy, there is some awe-inspiring art just around. Richard Serra’s iconic East-West/ West-East stands tall, upwards of 14 metres, in the middle of barren desert land. This breathtaking combination of stunning scenery and provocative art is unmissable – four large steel plates that span more than a kilometre, creating long shadows.
Go kitesurfing at the Ras Abrouq beach. The water is too shallow and rocky for swimming, but this is a great barbecue or camping spot and if you stay all night, you get to see the beautiful sunrise.
GPS: 25.404985, 50.755775
Dukhan is an hour-long drive but since this is a town, it’s safe and not isolated at all. You might like to know this is the first site of oil discovery in Qatar. Most of the recreational facilities are mostly for the residents there but there are some public-accessible attractions. You don’t need a 4WD to reach any of them.
Dukhan beach has two areas – one for the families, mostly barbecuing because the rocky shores are not very suitable for swimming (bring appropriate footwear if you still want to), with a playground and other family-oriented things. The other one is more of a large open space, good for camping and swimming because there are no rocks here. There’s a Dukhan Water Sports club if you want to go jet skiing or windsurfing.
The town area has a food court with toilets. So yes, taking hot pizza to the beach and chilling is not a distant dream anymore.
Wildlife lovers rejoice. There’s an ostrich farm here and it’s definitely something to see. They roam free and driving along watching them sprint across is wonderful (and slightly creepy). You can get up, close and personal with them but don’t touch them. They don’t like to be petted and have really strong legs, and that’s all you need to know. Drive further along and you’ll find an oryx farm too. You thought there was almost no wildlife in Qatar, didn’t you? Al Maha Sanctuary.
For organised tours, Arabian Adventures (4436 1461) and Gulf Adventures (4422 1888).
15 Umm Bab
GPS: 25.208863, 50.768215
This beach is also known as Palm Tree Beach, owing to the small cluster of palm trees scattered there. The beach is also part of the Al Reem Natural Reserve, a reserve that takes care of the oryx and gazelles. Thanks to all the palm trees, shade is aplenty and you can soak in the quiet, contemplative environs of this Qatari coast. Make sure you take sufficient supplies with you, there is nothing around. Camping here is advisable in groups only.
The Al Kharayij Beach is nearby. It’s better for families since they have football and volleyball playgrounds, designated areas for barbecues and umbrellas for shade.
16 Sealine Beach
GPS: 24.861143, 51.516837
Well, by now, you’ve pretty much covered all of Qatar’s massive coastline. We saved the best for last. Everybody knows of Sealine Beach and every weekend, public holidays included, sees kilometres of 4WDs waiting to get into the beach area. This is the best beach for swimming, barbecuing, camping and every other beach-related activity. You’re lucky if you find a spot, though. Sealine beach is also one of the most popular diving spots in Doha. Most diving groups usually set out to dive from here. Going alone isn’t recommended; make sure you have an instructor, or a group of divers with you at all times.
Qatar Marine (55319507).
Golden Beach is Sealine’s younger, more rebellious sister, who nobody really likes. The beach is rocky and is packed with jellyfish, hence swimming is not recommended, especially in hotter months. People mostly barbecue and camp out here, with the occasional caravan parked around the corner. It's right before Sealine, with guiding signs.
Sealine Beach Resort is a great idea if you fancy a staycation. They’ve recently refurbished the property and it’s rather swanky now. They offer jet skiing sessions and day passes to use the pool and beach.
Sealine Beach Resort (4021 4000).
Right outside the resort, there’s an Al Meera Supermarket for you to take snacks and refreshments with you. A tyre deflating unit is next to it, and this is something that needs to be done if you are going to the hit the dunes. On the way to the dunes, dune buggying is another common thing to do and is a great weekend activity for the whole family.
Qatar’s dunes are magical. Tour operators offer frequent trips including overnight packages, but if you have a 4WD and some mad dune-bashing skills, you should definitely head here with a bunch of friends. It’s always advisable to go in groups (more than two cars) because you most likely will get stuck in the sand. Listen to the sand dunes' song. These ethereal whistles and haunting moans can only be heard in a few places around the world, so this is an experience you cannot miss. The humming sounds and ghostly whispers occur when the sand is completely dry. Keep a sandboard in your car for some adventure. Dune-bashing for around one hour will bring you to one of the most beautiful places in Qatar – the Inland Sea, or Khor-Al-Udeid. This inlet creates a scenic camping spot and the waters are great for swimming too. Don’t be surprised if you see massive numbers of 4WDs pulling off-road for some dune bashing on the trip to the water’s edge. The sand dunes touch the water and turtles can possibly be seen. We’ve also heard that dugongs are visible from this area, along with some migratory birds. If you’re going without an organised tour, don’t go too far out – there are scorpions in the sand! Lots of tour operators offer overnight and day excursions to Inland Sea.
Inbound Tours Qatar (7745 1196), 365 adventures (7008 6008).
17 Al Wakrah
GPS: 25.130382, 51.617313
Al Wakrah Beach and Al Wakrah Family Beach are located in close proximity of each other. The family beach is easier to locate. There’s a designated area for barbecuing, and the place is suitable for children as there are multiple playgrounds, volleyball and football pitches, showers and other facilities. The beach is far from the sea and you will have to walk to get in the shallow water. Children need to be supervised as there are some sharp rocks at the bottom. Bringing your own supplies is recommended. You don’t need a 4WD.
During months of better weather, the nearby port is a great fishing spot. There’s a big park as well, with a few rides and attractions. Check it out.