While the State of Qatar may be small in size, it has already made a huge impression on the rest of the world and has succeeded in becoming a key player on the international scene.
No doubt there were many surprised faces around the world when FIFA president Sepp Blatter pulled Qatar out of the envelope as the host of the 2022 Soccer World Cup, but for the Middle Eastern state it was the result they had expected. It is still 11 years away, but already Qatar is showing signs of an exciting build-up to the event. The locals believed their country deserved the event and that they would be able to pull it off in true Qatari style. With everything the country has to offer as a business, MICE and leisure destination, it should not have been a shock that
Qatar was chosen. Qatar is a leading energy producer and, thanks to its huge gas reserves, it will provide a third of the world’s needs in liquid gas by 2012. Although it boasts the world’s third-largest gas field, it has not overlooked the need to diversify its economy into petrochemicals, industry and tourism. Visitors to Qatar travel there to invest, attend international meetings, political or economic forums and international sporting events.
As the capital of Qatar, Doha continues to grow. This business district comprises high towers, large hotels and compounds on manmade lagoons. It has become an international meeting place where people often come for forums and conferences. Doha has developed along the Corniche, which is now a popular jogging spot for locals and visitors. Doha boasts the most prestigious hotels with the best facilities that demanding clients can expect. Just 10km out of Doha, travellers looking for something a little different will find Entertainment City. It features ten hotels and various resorts, and offers luxury facilities combined with the magical turquoise and jade colours of the sea, and the white, mother-of-pearl sand. While Doha has already come a long way in terms of development, there is still a massive amount of construction taking place. Throughout the city you will see large constructions projects under way.
Qatar Airways was launched in 1994 and has since had a positive influence in tourism to the country. The airline is one of the best in the world and is constantly growing its fleet and destinations. Qatar Airways currently has five A380s on order and is expecting to receive the first in 2012. The airport is already a world-class facility with a dedicated lounge for Qatar Airways Business and First Class passengers. However, a new airport is being constructed and is nearing completion. The new airport will be able to accommodate the A380 and will greatly increase capacity. At full capacity, the airport will handle 50m passengers each year, which is six times the capacity of the current airport. Numerous international airlines operate flights into Doha every day.
Qatar offers an abundance of accommodation ranging from three to five-star. It has well-known urban hotels that cater to the needs of business travellers, like the Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton, to seaside resorts such as the Sealine Beach Resort and Al Sultan Beach Resort. Many of the hotels, like the Movenpick Tower & Suites Doha, are dry hotels, meaning no alcohol is available on the premises. Travellers should enquire before booking a particular hotel depending on their specific needs. The four-star Movenpick Tower & Suites Doha is frequented by South African business travellers. It has a convenient location and outstanding facilities including a business centre, spa and restaurant on site.
Qatar focuses a considerable amount of attention on its meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market, which has seen the construction of world-class hotels and venues with stateof- the-art facilities and five-star service.
Doha Exhibitions Centre (DEC)
The centre has 15 000m2 of event space and is designed to host six simultaneous exhibitions. It features the latest smart technology, along with a business centre, meeting and VIP rooms, a bank and a coffee shop.
Doha Convention Centre & Tower
Set to open this year, the tower will reach approximately 112 stories and will house a high-end hotel, luxurious apartments and lavish penthouses as well as substantial office space. The Convention Centre will provide 50 000m2 of space.
Qatar National Convention Centre
Also opening this year, this convention centre is located in Doha’s Education City. It boasts a 2 500-seat auditorium, a 500-seat theatre, a two tiered auditorium with capacity for up to 472 delegates on each level and a 4 000-seat multipurpose hall for conferences.
Things to know
While Arabic is the official language of Qatar, English is widely spoken.
Because it is an Arabic country, the weekend in Qatar consists of Friday and Saturday. Commercial offices are generally open from Sunday to Thursday from 07h30 to noon and again from 16h00 to 19h30. Shopping malls are open Saturday to Thursday from 10h00 to 22h00 and on Fridays from 15h00 to 22h00.
Banks are usually open Sunday to Thursday 07h30 to 13h00 but ATMs are located throughout and major credit cards are widely accepted. Cash is, however, necessary in the souqs and smaller stores. The currency in Qatar is the Qatari Riyal (QR).
Qatar is three hours ahead of the GMT.
While tipping is appreciated it is not expected. A service charge is often added to bills in hotels and most restaurants. Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip but rounding up is customary.
Qatar is conservative and visitors are expected to dress modestly, especially during Ramadan. Revealing too much skin is considered to be offensive. It is acceptable to expose arms and legs, but shoulders and torsos should be covered, and shorts or skirts should be of respectable lengths. Qatar is extremely hot in summer and warm in winter, so lightweight cottons and linens are best. Winter evenings can be cool, so pack a shawl or light jacket.
The consumption of alcohol is strictly regulated, but most hotels and clubs serve it to guests, except during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It is illegal to bring alcohol, including duty free, into Qatar. Drunken behaviour in public is punishable by imprisonment, fine or both.
When travelling to Qatar for business, you should always try and make time to explore the various sites and experience on offer.
Museum of Islamic Art
The museum contains stunning galleries boasting some of the world’s rarest and most valuable exhibits, with artefacts dating from the seventh to the 19th centuries. It is located on its own man-made island linked to Doha’s Corniche.
The Qatar Racing & Equestrian Club will give visitors insight into the breeding of Arabian horses as well as the opportunity to watch them race. The flat-racing season runs from October to May with free admission.
Shopping in Qatar is a must. There are various shopping options ranging from large chic malls to the more traditional Arab souqs. Sales usually take place in the summer months after Eid and in December/January. The stores are generally less busy and cooler in the morning. Bargaining is expected in the smaller shops and souqs. You are generally not expected to pay the initial asking price. Some of the top shopping malls include Doha City Centre and Villaggio while a highly recommended souq is the Souq Waqif.
Capital city: Doha
Government: Hereditary monarchy
Official religion: Islam
Weather: Year-round sunshine. Temperatures range from 25°C to 45°C in the summer
Languages: Arabic and English
Local time: GMT +3
Currency: Qatari Riyal
International dialling code: 974