Five Fantastic Activities To Do For Free In Qatar
Spending your free time pursuing leisure activities and entertainment can also mean spending hard-earned cash. Many diversions have associated fees for entry and participation. Whether you’re going solo or taking the whole family with you, hanging out over your weekend or taking a holiday, that can have an impressive impact on your wallet. However, not every distraction needs to cost; plenty of activities don’t cost a thing, and Qatar has an abundance of free pastimes to suit everyone and every circumstance. Whether you are looking to while away a few hours doing something sporty, relaxing, adventurous, educational, cultural, sociable, or family orientated, there is something for everyone. So, to give you a starting point, we'll give you the lowdown on five of the nation's favourite fun and, most importantly, free activities:
A lot of leisure time in Qatar is spent, weather permitting, outside and enjoying the country's natural features, such as its beaches. With a coastline of 563 km, there are plenty of sandy shores to spare. Shallow warm waters and golden sandy beaches dominate the coast, and though most beaches inside the city limits are privately owned and cost to visit, there are many public beaches to explore, from the city to the furthest reaches of the country.
Each of Qatar's public beaches is unique and offers a variety of things for visitors to see and do. Some are ideal for swimming, paddling, snorkelling, water sports and even crabbing, some are perfect for relaxing, and some are great for kids. Some beaches offer miles of sand to explore, others have rock formations or mangroves, some have birdlife, and some have a fantastic array of sea life. Indeed, migratory birds can be found all along the coast, turtles nest yearly at specific locations, and dugongs live off the coast. Some beaches have many facilities and amenities such as toilets, cafes, shops, changing rooms, playgrounds, barbecues, sun loungers and sunshades. Some untouched wild beaches have minimal additions. Some can be reached easily by car or public transport, and other more remote stretches of sand need a 4x4 vehicle to get there. All of the beaches have something to offer and are worth a visit.
Our favourite public beach is Fuwairit Beach, one of Qatar's most beautiful, wild, undeveloped public beaches. Its calm seas, shallow waters, and white sand dotted with shells attract plenty of visitors to this remote spot. Camping, barbeques and picnics are popular at the beach, as are swimming, snorkelling and kite surfing. Shallow waters make a safe haven for kids to play in, and swimmers can easily wade out to deeper clear blue water. There are plenty of fish, crabs and other wildlife to spot in the water and along the shore. Dolphins have been spotted in the water, and the beach is a protected hawksbill turtle nesting site. There are also interesting rock formations along the coast. Known locally as 'jebel' (mountain in Arabic), these small rocky hills lead right into the water's edge and are perfect for exploring and climbing adventures at low tide.
Fuwairit Beach is close to the northern tip of the Qatar peninsula, approximately 100 km from Doha. The journey takes over an hour, and the beach is accessed via the Al Sharma and Fuwairit Roads. The last part of the journey is over a rough dirt track.
Swimming in the sea around Qatar is considered to be safe. There are jellyfish, stonefish, lionfish and stingrays in the waters, but in limited numbers - taking suitable precautions will prevent any problems with them.
Another popular pastime for residents of Qatar during the winter months (October to April) is camping. Spending time outside the city brings you closer to experiencing the nation's traditional nomadic Bedouin roots and is not to be missed. Indeed, you can take in the rural and often deserted landscape, with its unique flora and fauna, beautiful beaches and desert locations, shallow and crystal clear seas, and, by night, the unspoiled starlit skies. If nothing else, it's time to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and relax in the great outdoors. And, if you travel and camp under your own steam instead of an organised excursion with any of Qatar's adventure tour operators, it's free!
There are plenty of places to go camping in Qatar, though generally, campers pitch their tents along the coastline at Wakrah, Umm Bab, Dukhan, Zekreet, Fuwairit, Ghariya and Sealine, or at the country's inland sea, Khor Al Adaid. The water's air is cleaner and fresher, and the coastal landscape offers plenty of activities while you camp. Our prefered destination is Khor Al Adaid...
Khor Al Adaid is one of Qatar's most beautiful natural wonders. Amid the desert, the enormous rolling dunes, with clear blue skies above, give way to the vivid blue waters of an inland lagoon. The lagoon is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches so deeply into the desert - its unique features make it incomparable with any other lagoonal system anywhere else in the world. Astoundingly picturesque, Khor Al Adaid is recognised by UNESCO as a nature reserve with a unique ecosystem. It is home to various birds, land animals, and marine life - some of which have rare or threatened status. Aside from the extraordinary and scenic landscape, a trip to the desert camping also offers you the chance to relax on the beach, picnic, BBQ, swim, fish, explore the dunes, and stargaze in the evening. For the more adventurous, there is dune bashing and sandboarding.
The Inland Sea lies approximately 90 km from Doha to the southwest of Qatar. The beach is accessed via the Sealine Beach Road and the Inland Sea Off-Road. Over 30 km of the route is over desert tracks and dunes. So, the best vehicle to travel in is a 4x4.
There are no shops or other amenities out at the Inland Sea. So, take everything you need with you in terms of food and especially water. It is also wise to pack a first aid kit, sunscreen, some shading, firewood for a campfire and toilet roll. Before you leave, ensure the car you travel in is fit for the desert, filled with fuel and relevant fluids. Also, take a GPS or smartphone (charged and with charger) for navigational purposes, deflate your tyres to around 15-20 psi before you hit the desert sands to ensure good traction (you can re-inflate at the shops by Sealine Beach on your return), and, if possible, travel in convoy. And finally, take your litter home with you!
Surprisingly, Qatar has many parks and green spaces for a country known for its heat and proximity to the desert. Each, aside from space to exercise, explore or relax in, offers visitors a whole host of additional activities, completely free. The majority of parks are complete with basic facilities such as toilets, benches and shaded areas. And a good deal offer much, much more. Some parks provide outdoor exercise gyms, courts for ball and racquet sports, running and cycling tracks, and a few even offer horse riding and camel exercise trails. Some provide picnic tables and seating, barbeque facilities, simple food outlets and kiosks to popular cafes and restaurants. Most incorporate kids' play equipment, though in some parks, the play areas are so comprehensive they are more like adventure playgrounds. You can also find parks with water features, boating lakes, skate parks, amphitheatres, heritage sites, public art, sculptures, and even air conditioning. And all abound with a beautiful array of trees, bushes, plants and flowers.
One of the best parks in Qatar is Al Bidda Park, one of the largest in Doha. The park's 200 hectares run alongside the city's oceanfront Corniche, from the Amiri Diwan, the office and workplace of the Amir of Qatar, north towards West Bay, making for spectacular views. The green panorama of the park contrasts with the blue sky, the glimmering sea and the impressive skyscraper cityscape of West Bay. Aside from some of the best views in the city, the park offers a plethora of walking, running and cycling tracks; open-air gymnasiums (including a women's only gym); tennis, volleyball and basketball courts (all available free of charge); and seven kids playgrounds. The playgrounds have a host of equipment to suit different age ranges, including sand pits and clamber-on toys, swings in various sizes, see-saws, climbing frames, slides, interactive activities and, in some cases, zip slides. And, if that were not enough to keep the kids amused, there is a green maze to explore, areas for freestyle sports such as skateboarding and skating, and bike and go-cart hire shops. You can also find natural rock structures to clamber on, a green wadi, an amphitheatre, three garden bridges (located over the main roads that intersect the park) and a water plaza to investigate. The park is also home to various cafes, restaurants and food kiosks. Though, if you are saving your pennies, barbequing stations are available across the park. Each is set into a grassy mound that provides some privacy and wind shelter and comes complete with a table, benches and a bin. And finally, seating, shaded areas and pathways, and evening lighting are provided too.
Al Bidda Park is located adjacent to the Corniche, and its various underground parking entrances can be reached via Al Istiqlal Street, Al Rayyan Road and Al Corniche. Visitors can also reach the park via the Corniche and Al Bidda Metro Stations.
Al Bidda Park is a pet-friendly park!
One of Qatar's flourishing pastimes, whatever the weather, is to visit one of the country's ever-growing portfolio of museums. Qatar is home to numerous beautiful, diverse and well-curated museums that offer a chance to learn a little more about the country's history, heritage, and culture. The National Museum of Qatar, housed in one of the nation's most impressive buildings, the Museum of Islamic Art, Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the 3-2-1 Qatar and Olympic Sports Museum, are all owned by Qatar Museums, the country's institution for art and culture. These fantastic museums, which explore various facets of Qatar's history and culture, provide free entry to all of the nation's residents and children under sixteen. For non-resident adults and students, the cost is QAR 50 and QAR 25, respectively (under 15 dollars/euros/pounds). The world's largest private museum, Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, housing a collection of over 30,000 diverse and eclectic objects and designed to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Qatar and its cultural links with the rest of the world, is also well worth a visit but charges a small entrance fee regardless of your resident or non-resident status - QAR 50 for adults and QAR 35 for seniors, teachers, young adults (12 - 22) and students (under 15 dollars/euros/pounds). However, there are museums in Doha that are entirely free to enter - Msheireb Museums in Downtown Msheireb happens to be one of our most-loved venues in which to spend some downtime.
The Msheireb Museums are relatively new to Doha, having opened in 2015. Located in the heart of Doha's regenerated downtown commercial district, the Msheireb Museums celebrate Qatar's national history, culture and social development through four restored heritage buildings. Each house (Bin Jalmood House, Company House, Radwani House and Mohamed Bin Jassim House) narrates Qatar's history through the stories of the original tenants. The chronicles cover slavery, its abolition, the discovery of oil, domestic life in the 20th century, and the past and present of the Msheireb area. The stories of the past are brought to life through original architecture, objects and artefacts, life-sized models and sculptures, films and documentaries, projected visual media, as well as state-of-the-art interactive digital screens, displays and tables, and hands-on educational activities and games. The museum also incorporates outdoor spaces, light, spacious galleries, a library, study areas, quiet reflection rooms, a restaurant and cafe, a gift shop, and a DNA exhibition reflecting Qatar's diversity throughout history.
Msheireb Museums are located on Al Arsheef Al Watani Street, a three-minute walk from Msheireb Metro Station, which can be reached via the Doha Metro on the Red, Green or Gold Lines. The museum is open Monday to Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm; Friday, 3 pm – 9 pm; Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm; closed on Sunday.
Msheireb Museums offer a variety of free arts, cultural and creative public events, exhibitions and workshops throughout the year. Check the museum's website, msheirebmuseums.com, for more information.
Staying indoors, the Qatar National Library is also one of our favourite places to spend some spare time, especially when temperatures across the city rise. Like many buildings in Doha, the National Library is an architectural gem worth discovering for its own merit. Shaped like a colossal 3D diamond, lying horizontally beside the main road through Education City, the structure has already grabbed your attention before you step inside. Once inside, you enter a bright, cavernous, modern space with glass walls on two sides, high glossy white ceilings supported by huge pillars, polished marble floors and an enormous atrium. The effect, alongside the quietness of the library, is a tranquil and almost ethereal atmosphere. And the library's books, displayed on contemporary, individually lit cabinets, set on ascending steps that follow the sloping lines of the building up to its ceiling, give a sense of never-ending learning possibilities.
Aside from the building housing the library being a wonder to behold, it is an ideal place for adults and kids alike to spend a hot afternoon in a quiet, peaceful environment reading, studying, discovering and enjoying this marvellous space. The stepped floor levels, which contain over a million books, also accommodate a multitude of workstations for reading and studies. The main floor of the atrium is strewn with bean bags, comfy chairs and board games for more relaxed readers and visitors, and a small cafe at the centre boasts hanging bubble chairs that add to the relaxed atmosphere that pervades the building. Above on a mezzanine level, more workstations, furnished printers and scanners, study rooms, media lounges, and conference rooms, all team with academic life. And tucked away behind the main bookshelves is a bright, comfortable and secure children's library with over 100,000 books for kids up to 11 years old. And while children have the opportunity to read and learn, they also have the chance to play. The kids' space also incorporates interactive learning games and activities, educational toys, crafts tables, and a climbing wall and soft play area for children five and younger. Teens have their own library section too, filled with 30,000 books and other media for study and relaxation.
However, it's not all books and studying at the library. Individual technology rooms can be hired hourly and are furnished with 3D printers, green screens, video and photography equipment, sound recording equipment, musical instruments, electronic and robotics equipment, and all relevant software. There is also a Heritage Library on the Ground Floor to explore. It consists of rare and valuable books and artefacts. It includes early texts and manuscripts relating to Arabic and Islamic civilisation, historical maps and early photographs of Qatar and the wider Gulf region, writings and other unique relics from travellers visiting and passing through the area over the centuries. An amphitheatre in the main hall is often open to the public for the arts, such as performances by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. And, there is a restaurant providing healthy, reasonably priced meals and refreshments.
The library can be reached via the Doha Metro on the Green Line and alighting at the Qatar National Library-Metro Station. The building is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm, Saturday to Thursday, and from 4 pm to 8 pm on Fridays. The children’s library closes at 6:30 pm every evening. Access to the library is free.
The library hosts various events, courses, workshops, exhibitions and educational and social clubs for adults and children every month. Check the library's website, qnl.com, for more information.
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