Qatar travel guide

The eyes of the world are on Qatar right now. Following the discovery of oil in the 1940s, this small Gulf state has been catapulted from a small fishing and trading hub to one of the richest (per capita) countries in the world.

Fuelled by oil and natural gas revenue, Qatar is developing at breakneck speed. Everything from universities to shopping malls, five-star hotels to football stadiums are springing up across the desert floor.

Modern Qatar is, for all intents and purposes, a city-state. Over half of the country's population lives in and around the capital, Doha. Other towns and districts are interspersed between oil compounds that provide Qatar with most of its wealth. Beyond oil fields, the country has its share of natural beauty, with gorgeous beaches line the western coast while spectacular dunes surround Khor Al Adaid in the south. The large expense of Al Thakira mangroves near Al Khor on the eastern seaboard also provides a sharp contrast to the adjoining desert landscape.

While Islam is the predominant religion in Qatar, the society is refreshingly tolerant. Expats are free to practise other religions and their civil liberties respected. The press is also among the freest in the region.

While matching towards liberalisation, Qatar has not lost sight of its deeply ingrained religious and cultural heritage either. Alcohol is only served in hotel bars and restaurants, work calendars are very much decided by religious commitments such as Ramadan, traditional sports such as falconry and camel-racing remain popular pastimes. Indeed, much like the geometrically patterned Islamic Art found all over the country, Qatar is a complex, yet beautiful country.