July 06, 2023

Seeing The Sights While On Route To Al Janoub Stadium

Qatar is the smallest country in FIFA football history to have hosted the World Cup. For the first time in 2022, fans and spectators could visit each hosting stadium during a single tournament - the stadiums built for the competition are all within a 70 km radius of one another! As such, visitors had an unmissable opportunity to see more of a hosting country than ever, and Qatar has plenty to offer.

The World Cup may have concluded, and football fans have departed, but the tournament stadiums remain. Although they will each be modified to ensure a sustainable and valuable legacy, they will still be regarded as top tourist destinations. And, as we've already mentioned, Qatar's diminutive size (and its quick and efficient transport systems) make it easy for visitors to tour the arenas and, in doing so, have the chance to visit a host of other attractions on each stadium's doorstep.

So, if you are keen to make the most out of visiting Qatar, we've compiled a guide to some of the best spots close to Qatar's seafaring-inspired stadium, Al Janoub.

But first, let us introduce you to the stadium in question.

Al Janoub Stadium

Image: Photo Play/Shutterstock.com

Located in the bustling coastal town of Al Wakrah, 24 km south of Doha, Al Janoub Stadium is accessible by car, taxi, bus and Metro (via the Doha Metro Red Line to Al Wakrah Station).

Al Janoub Stadium, inspired by the traditions of Qatari life on the coast - particularly Al Wakrah's pearl diving and fishing past - was designed to resemble the sails of traditional Dhow boats from the outside and the hull of a ship on the inside. 

Following on from the World Cup, the arena will be redeveloped to reduce its capacity from 40,000 to 20,000 seats and will become the home of the local football team, Al Wakrah Football Club. A new retail complex, sports facilities, parkland, and a new mosque, wedding hall, and market will also be incorporated into the stadium's surrounding area.

The arena, the most southerly of the 2022 tournament's eight stadiums, is blessed by its proximity to the coastline and the start of Qatar's dunes. And though each stadium has a wealth of sights to see on its doorstep (beaches, parks, traditional markets and a plethora of places to eat), Al Janoub, as one of the oldest continuously inhabited fishing and pearling ports in Qatar, a stone's throw from the wild dunes of the Arabian Desert, is the only World Cup Stadium to provide access to such diverse diversions.

So if you are heading to Al Janoub Stadium to watch football, play sports, immerse yourself in some retail therapy, or for sightseeing, check out these recommended attractions while you're there.

Nearby Sights and Attractions

Aside from the stadium, visitors can walk the surrounding precinct, with gardens, lawns, picnic areas, children's parks, tracks for horse riding, running and cycling, and numerous restaurants. Or visit the nearby Al Wakrah Souq, the beach, the port, or head further afield to the desert. There is a variety of things to see and do:

Souq Wakrah

Image: Fitria Ramli/Shutterstock.com

If you want to explore Qatar's cultural vibe, head to Souq Wakrah, built alongside Wakrah's old port and previously the site of an ancient fishing village. 

Souq Wakrah is a traditional-style market, commonplace in the Middle East. While the souq is a relatively new development, its low-walled, flat-roofed buildings, constructed around a labyrinth of courtyards and alleyways, are full of heritage features. Traditional Qatari architecture is in full swing along the wide streets and the maze of tiny passageways, thoroughfares and ginnels. Shops and houses, made from sandy-coloured clay and limestone to maintain cooler temperatures inside, are set around courtyards and gardens, entered through large wooden doors and arched entrances. Date palms line the streets, and all walkways draw you in and down towards a seafront promenade.

The souq is full of small shops selling local delicacies such as dates, Arabic coffee, spices, honey, woven textiles, handicrafts, and souvenirs. There are even tailors, boat makers and old hardware-style shops. Along the promenade, you can find a host of cafes and restaurants selling local fare, Asian dishes and European food. However, there is much more to the souq than shops, eateries and picturesque streets.

The souq is also home to one of the oldest mosques in Qatar - the Abu Manaratain Mosque. The original mosque was built in 1940 and was a simple structure with thick walls made from overlapping pieces of raw coral, rock and limestone and a roof coated with compressed mud. The Qatari Government renovated the mosque in 2004, retaining the original design and features, including a small pool for ablutions, which was originally filled with water from a well in the adjacent courtyard.  

The promenade, which stretches north towards a public beach and south to the restored Wakrah Fishing Harbour, also features a variety of sights and things to do. You can watch fishing boats casting off or docking with their catch at the southern end of the promenade at the harbour. Look further afield to see The Pearl Monument, an iconic monument built in the 1980s to represent Qatar's pearl-diving past. Heading north alongside the seafront restaurants and cafes that spill out with chairs and shades for alfresco dining, you can rest on the family beach, a narrow but clean and well-maintained strip of sand with shallow water safe for paddling and deeper waters further out for swimming. Traditional sailing boats, Dhows, have been pulled onto the shore and painted in brilliant white and vibrant blues - great for quirky Instagram shots! A small square of the promenade adjacent to the souq juts out through the beach into the sea - surrounded by rocks - an excellent place for spotting crabs, fish and the occasional heron. Towards the end of the low-rise buildings, the sand opens into a lovely, well-tended, large park for children. Walk further north and find another stretch of wilder sand and BBQ areas.

During the summer, and available for a fee, many temporary kids activities pop up all along the promenade - inflatables, trampolines, bikes, go-karts, camel and horse rides, and more. The souq also hosts some vibrant festivals and events throughout the year.

Souq Wakrah is genuinely a stop for everyone, and you can easily spend an entire day there!

You can reach Al Wakrah Souq from the stadium by car or taxi. The closest metro station is the Al Wakra Metro Station on the Red Line. Once at the station, you can hop on a free Metrolink Shuttle Bus to the souq, which takes 10 minutes.

Note: As the beach is attached to a public promenade and market, and Qatar is a conservative country, modest beachwear must be worn on the souq’s beach.

Al Wakrah Family Beach

Image: Qatar Living

If you'd rather spend the day immersed in beach-only activities on a larger stretch of sand and have the family in tow, Al Wakrah Family Beach, located just south of the city and within a secure compound, could be just the ticket. The beach is long, wide and sandy, with plenty of room for the entire clan to run amok. 

Al Wakrah Family Beach is perfect for families for so many reasons. The water is very shallow at low tide, creating lots of pools and sandbars for many metres out from the shore - perfect for exploring, setting up your own 'island' camp, building sandcastles, and paddling with a host of small fish and crabs. Further out, the water deepens - excellent for swimming and snorkelling. On-shore, there are wooden cabanas with seating, BBQ grills, and plenty of trash bins - great for picnics and BBQs, which are super popular with local families and give the beach an atmosphere that feels safe, friendly and fun. And there are three large, shaded children's play areas pitched on the beach, with equipment to cover a range of ages - ensuring all the young ones are entertained.

The beach has toilets and shower blocks near the beach car park, but there are no shops, cafes or restaurants, so you need to bring your own food and drink. The beach compound reached via a track across the desert plain, is manned, but entrance is free.

Al Wakrah Family Beach, either side of a stadium visit, alongside a host of local families, is a cheap and easy win for all the brood!

The family beach can be reached in 15 minutes by car or taxi from the stadium. The nearest Metro station is the Al Wakra Station, but getting to the beach would require an additional taxi ride.

Sealine Beach Resort

Image: sealinebeachqatar.com

Public beaches provide a fun and active day out for all. However, somedays, we'd all rather relax on a manicured beach surrounded by life's little luxuries - think swimming pools, recliners, cabanas with soft mattresses and cushions, laundered towels, bottles of cold fresh water, pool bars, cafes and restaurants. Luckily, just 30 minutes by car or taxi from Al Janoub Stadium, you can find one of Qatar's premier beach resorts.

Located south of Al Wakrah, Sealine Beach Resort, winner of various Luxury hotel awards, is perched between the glistening waters of the Arabian Gulf and Qatar's rising golden dunes. The resort offers overnight accommodation in 58 luxury villas and apartments that open onto terraces and balconies overlooking the clear blue sea. But, if you're looking to relax in beautiful surroundings by the beach for a day, they also offer pool and beach day passes. 

The beach is a long, narrow, neat strip that backs onto a bright green lawn dotted with tall date palms, shrubs and planted beds. Winding pathways lead to a regular-shaped swimming pool to the left of the beach and to the right, three temperature-controlled, interconnected circular pools, which include a covered baby pool and a pool with a slide. Surrounding each pool and across the site are comfy cabanas, shaded loungers, umbrellas, tables, chairs, benches and covered picnic tables. A pizzeria, surf and turf cafe and a shisha and drinks lounge provide poolside refreshments, and indoors, for ultimate relaxation, a spa offers first-class skin and body treatments.

For more active visitors, you can participate in numerous water sports, including paddle boarding, kayaking, jet skiing, pedal boating, banana rides or diving into an inflatable water park. Or try various ball sports such as beach volleyball, tennis, football and basketball - the resort floodlit has courts and pitches for games at any time of the day or night. Or try riding camels and horses on the beach. Kids have plenty of options at the resort too - a play park, play area and a kids club, which often incorporates a giant inflatable bouncy castle/assault course.

Weekday passes, which include the resort facilities, are around QAR 100 per person, though kids under six enter for free. At weekends a day pass jumps up to QR 250 per person but includes a buffet lunch fresh from the site's fish and grill restaurant, Al Odaid.

Open 7 am to 7 pm daily, Sealine Beach Resort is the perfect location to spend a relaxing few hours, pre or post-match! To contact the resort for more information, call +974 4021 4000 or email [email protected], or check out their website, https://www.sealinebeachqatar.com.

Desert Safari

Image: Benny Marty/Shutterstock.com

If you're looking for thrills and spills activities in Qatar, heading south from Al Janoub Stadium to the country's sandy dunes is a great place to start. The desert has some fantastic opportunities to experience a completely unique and beautiful environment and to try your hand at some exceptional adventure activities.

Close to the Sealine Beach Resort, the paved roads of Qatar end and the soft sands of the dunes begin. From there, you can embark upon a desert safari. Safely ensconced in a 4x4, you can experience the buzz of powering up the steep slopes of the ever-changing dunes, some over 50 metres high, balancing precariously at the top of each before plummeting and racing down the other side. For the more adventurous, there are opportunities to stop and try sand boarding, organise dune bashing in pacey dune buggies and quad bikes, or try your hand at camel and horse riding. Along the intense journey, you get to see the vastness and beauty of the desert, its unique flora and fauna, and beautiful beaches and crystal clear seas along the coast. Depending on the time of day you embark on your adventure, you can watch the sunrise or set, even gaze in astonishment at the unspoiled starlit skies. As a location, it's an Instagrammers heaven!

Most desert safaris also take in Qatar's natural wonder, Khor Al Adaid - an inland desert lagoon, one of only three worldwide. Astoundingly picturesque, the Inland Sea is recognised by UNESCO as a nature reserve with a unique ecosystem. It is an extraordinary and scenic landscape and home to various birds, land animals, and marine life - some of which have rare or threatened status. While there, you can relax on the beach, swim, fish and explore the dune. 

Some safaris also offer the opportunity to camp overnight. Many campsites offer luxury tents with modern conveniences such as running water, electricity, wifi, air conditioning and comfy double beds. Some offer traditional camping, with Bedouin-style tents around a fire pit and a majlis to relax in. Whichever option you choose, the experience is designed to bring you closer to the nation's traditional nomadic Bedouin roots.

You can organise an excursion with or without additional activities and camping with any of Qatar's adventure tour operators (i.e. 365 Adventures, Arabian Adventures Qatar, Desert Safari Doha and Falcon Tours, to name a few). 

A desert safari is one of the best ways to experience the country beyond the bright lights of Doha and would undoubtedly add a new dimension to a trip to see the AL Janoub's historic World Cup stadium.

The start of the desert lies approximately 40 km from Al Janoub Stadium.

Main image: Tomacrosse/Shutterstock.com

Published: November 05, 2022
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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