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. Throughout the 2022 tournament and beyond, many visitors to Qatar will travel to the stadium’s location to watch the football or catch a glimpse of this amazing structure. Though located the furthest from Doha in Al Khor, a factor that before the stadium’s assembly may have inhibited travel to this destination, visitors will not only get to admire the stadium’s astounding architecture, but they will also have the chance to explore the surrounding area. And, despite the distance from the country’s capital city hub, there are plenty of delightful diversions to investigate.
In this article, we will not only introduce you to Al Bayt Stadium but also aim to 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
Built on the outskirts of the coastal city of Al Khor, around 50 km from the centre of Doha, Al Bayt Stadium is quick and easy to reach via car, taxi, bus and a Metro/Shuttle Bus option. By road, visitors can reach the stadium in less than an hour on the Al Khor Coastal Road. By Metro, travellers simply need to hop on the Metro Red Line north to Lusail, then catch a Shuttle Bus from the station to the stadium.
The 60,000-capacity venue, visible from miles away across the desert plains, was completed in 2020, with the inaugural match taking place in November 2021. The opening match also marked the first-ever FIFA Arab Cup game - a national team football tournament exclusively for the Arab world. The contest, between Qatar and Bahrain, was the first of four Arab Cup games held at the stadium, which included three Group Stage battles and a quarter-final match. During the quarter-final head-to-head between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, won by Qatar 5-0, the stadium recorded 63,439 spectators in attendance. During the World Cup, the stadium will host similar crowds across nine matches, including six Group Stage games - one of which will be the tournament's opening ceremony, a Round of 16 clash, a quarter-final and a semi-final bout. The stadium will see the Qatar National Team take on Ecuador and the Netherlands during the competition and host Morocco and Croatia, England and the United States, Spain and Germany and Costa Rica and Germany.
Visitors to Al Bayt Stadium may marvel at the stadium's traditional tent-like structure, but the inside is no less impressive. Modern, cool, palatial walkways lead guests around the centre pitch. Multiple seating areas adorned with sculptures and traditional camping antiquities provide comfortable and sumptuous places to relax and socialise. Luxury skyboxes in the upper tiers that transform into 5-star hotel rooms are a sight to behold. Outside, visitors can enjoy Al Bayt Stadium Park, which surrounds the arena. The park boasts 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.
Those lucky enough to attend any of the World Cup matches at Al Bayt or 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
If you are in Qatar with family, then 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 largest sheep and livestock (cows) farms in the Gulf 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, if you're after something more, the park restaurant offers traditional Arabic dishes made from farm produce. 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 give them a call 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 basic amenities - Al Farkiah Beach is situated adjacent to the World Cup Fan Village. 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 of these beaches is also equipped with 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. This beach, with its white sand and blue seas, 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, grassy areas with picnic tables, benches and a host of 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, there is an array of shops, eateries and petrol stations.
The majority of 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
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 a visit to 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 do 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.
By car or taxi, Purple Island is less than 10 minutes from Al Bayt Stadium and well worth the effort to visit. Al Thakira mangroves are a 25-minute drive from Al Bayt Stadium in Al Dhakira.
Main image: PhotoPlay/Shutterstock.com
If you liked this article, check out one of the others in this series:
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If you are feeling peckish on your adventures around Al Bayt Stadium, check out our Best Restaurants to Visit Near Al Bayt Stadium article.