July 06, 2023

Delightful Diversions Direct from Al Bayt Stadium

Al Bayt Stadium is one of Qatar's most intriguing and unique arenas built for the FIFA 2022 World Cup; constructed to resemble a traditional Bedouin tent of the nation's ancestors, it is an extraordinary sight to behold. As such, many visitors to Qatar have and will continue to travel to the stadium just to catch a glimpse of this amazing structure.

Of the eight stadiums built for the World Cup, Al Bayt Stadium is located the furthest from Doha in Al Khor, over 50 km from the capital. And though distance may have inhibited travel to this destination before the stadium's assembly, future visitors drawn to watch sporting events hosted in the arena and admire its astounding architecture will also discover that Al Bayt Stadium has plenty of delightful diversions to explore on its doorstep.

In this article, we will introduce you to Al Bayt Stadium and guide you to some of the top attractions around Al Khor. So, for the low-down on travel adventures outside the capital's city limits, read on…

Al Bayt Stadium

Image: Tomacrosse/Shutterstock.com

Built on the outskirts of the coastal city of Al Khor, around 50 km from the centre of Doha, Al Bayt Stadium is easy to reach within an hour via car, taxi or bus on the Al Khor Coastal Road. 

The 60,000-capacity venue, visible from miles away across the desert plains, was designed to resemble a typical Bedouin tent - the bayt al sha'ar. These tents were used by the nomadic tribes that used to roam throughout Qatar. Traditionally handmade from goat, sheep or camel hair, the tents were designed to keep the inside cool by allowing air to circulate freely. Inside, the stadium is kept cool via modern, solar-powered cooling technologies. 

Completed in 2020, Al Bayt Stadium hosted various 2022 World Cup games, including the opening match. Following on from the tournament, the arena will be transformed to ensure it is fit for purpose and in line with Qatar's development plans. The upper tier of the Al Bayt Stadium will be removed, reducing the stadium's capacity to 32,000 seats. The removed stands will be donated to developing countries with little or no stadium infrastructure. The remaining arena will be converted into a modern, vibrant recreational venue for tourists and the local community. Amenities will include a five-star hotel and a shopping centre with a food court, gym and multipurpose hall. Thankfully, the stadium's beautiful park, landscaped for the 2022 event and boasting vast green spaces, a man-made lake for boating, water features, kids' play areas, exercise stations, courts and pitches for football, tennis, volleyball and basketball, horse and camel stables and paddocks, and a multitude of restaurants and cafes, will remain for all visitors to enjoy.

Those lucky enough to visit the stadium will also have the chance to see the city of Al Khor, relax on the many beaches around the city, try out various water sports, or explore some of the parks, farms and reserves in the area. So, let's take a look at a couple of activities on offer:

Baladna Farm and Park

Image: BaladnaFarm.com

If you are in Qatar with family, Baladna Farm and Park is a great destination to head to while in Al Khor or visiting the stadium. Originally a sheep and goat farm, the venue has expanded since 2017 to become one of the Gulf's largest sheep and livestock (cows) farms and an exciting adventure park to boot. 

The family park surrounds a large boating lake with plenty of green spaces and shaded spots for relaxing and taking in the sights. It also incorporates a greenhouse nursery, an animal zone, a reptile house, stables and a visitors centre, as well as a host of playgrounds and adventure zones.

Families can enjoy colourful play parks, rope obstacle courses, climbing walls and zip slides, a challenging Ninja Warriors park, go-karting, pedal racing, mini-Land Rover driving, and bumpy battles on the bumper boats. Animal lovers can saddle up for horse and pony back rides, pet and feed a host of small animals and admire the larger ones, which include camels, llamas, monkeys, ostriches and zebras. Or they can wander through Reptile Cove, where a host of frogs, iguanas and snakes reside. They can even have a go at milking some cows - statues rather than the real thing, but an experience nonetheless. If that were not enough, there's always archery, bungee trampolines, a bouncy castle, a fossil and gem mining experience, a carousel, foot billiards, cornholing and a bicycle hire shop to explore. And for the learners, the visitor centre is set up to provide information about milk production, and the greenhouse nursery teaches the art of potting and nurturing plants, which you can buy and take home.

If you get hungry on site, never fear; the park has a food court serving drinks and snacks, including pizzas and burgers. However, the park restaurant offers traditional Arabic dishes made from farm produce if you're after something more. There's also a farm shop if you want to try creating 'fresh from the farm' food at home.

Located just off the Al Shamal Road, a 20-minute car or taxi ride north of Al Bayt Stadium, Baladna Farm and Park is open during the winter months only and costs just QAR 35 per adult and QAR 55 per child (3-12 years). Entrance includes many activities, but some cost a small additional fee. The park is open weekdays from 10 am - 7 pm and on the weekends until 8 pm (12:30 pm - 8 pm on Fridays). For more information, visit the park's website, baladnapark.com or Instagram, @baladnapark, or call them at +974 4424 6000.


Image: my holidays.com

The Al Khor coastal area has numerous beaches. Within a few kilometres east and south of the city's centre, you can find Al Qarma Beach Garden, Al Farkeeh Beach, Al Farkiah Coastal Beach and Al Farkiah Beach. Across the bay, east and north of the city centre, you can find Ras Matbakh Beach, Ras Matbakh East Beach and Zakhera Beach.

Al Qarma Beach Garden is a well-tended beach garden for only women and children under ten. It is well-equipped with kids' play areas, picnic tables and benches, grassy areas with trees for shade, washrooms facilities and lighting. Al Farkeeh Beach, Al Farkiah Coastal Beach, and Al Farkiah Beach are all family beaches, less well-tended but with various amenities. Al Farkiah was recently revamped and includes bathrooms, showers, changing areas, prayer rooms, BBQ facilities, play areas, seating and shading options. Ras Matbakh Beach, Ras Matbakh East Beach and Zakhera Beach are similar beaches with limited facilities. Still, each offers shallow, clear water - perfect for paddling, soft sand, and rocky outcrops - ideal for exploring and barbecues. Each beach also has seawalls and breakwaters, providing superb fishing and crabbing platforms.

However, one of the most popular family-friendly beaches is Al Khor Family Beach, located within the city limits. With its white sand and blue seas, this beach is scenic, clean, well-maintained and well-equipped. The water is shallow for about 50 m out, beyond which swimming is possible - a sea wall protects the swimming area. The beach incorporates plenty of amenities, including sun shades, benches, showers, toilets and changing rooms, barbeque grills, a picnic area, a beach restaurant, a children's play area and a small mosque. Adjacent to the beach is Al Khor's Corniche. Visitors to the Corniche can expect a winding promenade with white sand and sea on one side and grassy areas with picnic tables, benches and shaded seating on the other. Visitors can find restaurants, cafes, play areas, and washrooms all along the Corniche. And in the centre of Al Khor is an array of shops, eateries and petrol stations. 

Most beaches around Al Khor are within an easy 10 to 15-minute car or taxi ride from the stadium, and all are free to access.

Purple Island/Al Thakhira Mangroves

Image: Greysline/Shutterstock.com

Across the bay from Al Khor's Corniche, you can spot Purple Island, a naturally formed island attached to the mainland by a wooden walkway. The isle is a tranquil haven for native and migratory birds, fish and sea life attracted by the mangrove forests surrounding its rocky and sandy shores. However, it is also a site of historical importance. Evidence of ancient occupation on the island has been found from four separate periods of history, from as early as 2000 BC. The most interesting has to be the period from which the island's name was born. Though the original name for the land is Bin Ghanim Island, the isle has long been dubbed Purple Island due to archaeological findings from the Kassite period - 1400 to 1100 BC. The Kassites were people of the ancient near east known to have produced purple dye - reportedly for dying garments for royalty. The dye is made by extracting the secretions of a predatory sea snail. Indeed, over 3,000,000 crushed snail shells and Kassite ceramics associated with dye production were found during digs on the island - hence the moniker Purple Island.

Today, visitors can spend an hour or two on the island exploring the beaches, birdwatching and wildlife spotting, picnicking, climbing rocky outcrops, fishing, swimming or investigating the mangroves by canoe, kayak or paddle board. 

Just a short 15-minute car or taxi ride north from Purple Island is another area of native mangrove forest, Qatar's largest and oldest, Al Thakhira. With a greater expanse to explore, Al Thakhira offers a full day's activities, including exploring the mangroves by kayak and camping out overnight. The mangroves are curiously beautiful and make for great pictures, especially at sunset, as the light glows in a melee of reds, pinks, purples and oranges above the treeline.

If you plan to visit Al Bayt and can spare a few hours, visiting the mangroves at Purple Island or Al Thakhira is a must. The forests are perfect places to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of life and get closer to nature. Plus, they are free to visit. However, if you fancy taking to the waters on a kayak or similar and you don't have your own gear, there are tour operators who will take you on an organised adventure for a fixed price and duration. Check out 365 Adventures, Aqua Sports, Blue Pearl Experiences or Discover Arabia to find out more.

Purple Island is less than 10 minutes from Al Bayt Stadium by car or taxi and is well worth visiting. Al Thakira mangroves are a 25-minute drive from Al Bayt Stadium in Al Dhakira.

Main image: PhotoPlay/Shutterstock.com

Published: November 17, 2022
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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