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Towns & cities in Qatar you need to know about

Discovering Qatar beyond Doha

Qatar is not just about its capital city Doha, and the way it’s held on to its heritage even while moving towards the contemporary. It’s not just about modern structures and high rise buildings; it’s not just about museums and beaches; it’s not just about man made islands or purpose built hills. There’s a lot more to this small, but happening, country. With a long pristine and beautiful coastal line and plenty of sunshine all year round, Qatar is a destination where you can have it all.

Apart from Doha, Qatar is dotted by other small cities and towns, and while some are port towns, others are more significant as they represent the oil and gas industry which thrives in these areas.Visitors will discover dilapidated and abandoned villages, archaeological sites that give a little peak into the area’s history; inlets; islands; natural mangroves; golden sands; blue-green waters; and a lot more. 

Al Khor

Al Khor is a city in Qatar located in the north. It’s the capital of the Al Khor and Al Thakira Municipality, and one of Qatar’s main hubs of the oil and gas industry. The city was established in 1972 and, at the time, pearl trading was one of Qatar’s main sources of income. Al Khor started off as a small and isolated settlement that earned its income from fishing and pearl diving, but today, it’s approximately 16,000 square metres and one of Qatar’s main cities after Doha.

One might think Al Khor is all about oil and gas because most of its 250,000 people are the industry’s employees with their families who live here, because it’s close to Ras Laffan Industrial City and North Oil. However, Al Khor is actually a treasure trove of exciting things to do and see.

Some of Qatar’s vibrant natural wonders reside in this area like the the ancient Ain Hleetan Well and the Al Khor Towers, the Thakira Mangroves, Purple Island, Al Farkiah Beach, and last, but not least, the Al Khor Park and Zoo and the Al Bayt Stadium where the first FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match will take place. 

Must-see attractions in the area include

Al Bayt Stadium has been designed to look like a traditional Bedouin Arabic tent - bayt al sha’ar. In Bedouin times, tents had distinctive black stripes and red sadu patterns and this has been replicated inside the stadium. Al Bayt Stadium’s design symbolises desert hospitality where guests are welcomed from far and wide as a tradition that has been part of the Arab world for many centuries.

The stadium uses green building materials and the latest technology to preserve energy and water. After the World Cup is over, the upper tier of the Al Bayt Stadium’s modular seating will be donated to developing countries that need sporting infrastructure, in keeping with the tournament’s wider sustainability goals. Even the McDonald’s here has a traditional Bedouin tent design that’s equally inspiring. A must see when you visit this area.

In Al Khor, you can find treasures from the past like the Al Khor Towers where, in times past, guards stood watching over the Persian Gulf so pirates would not invade. The Ain Hleetan Well is situated next to the Al Khor Towers western side and was protected by the guards of the tower. It was built in 1900 on a little hill and when the Al Mahanda tribe settled in the area, the well came to be known as ‘the doctor’. It was believed the water in the well had medicinal properties and could cure different diseases. 

Located in Al Khor, Al Farkiah Beach, is a serene strip of golden coloured sand and blue waters that offers visitors a classic beach experience that’s relaxing and exciting at the same time. Surrounded by a fence with just one entry and exit point, this beach is a great escape for the family.

Children can swim and use the play area as their very own adventure land, while the adults relax under the pergolas, smoke up a barbecue and swim or enjoy some fun beach games. What’s different about this beach is there’s a cafeteria where you can get some great light bites and drinks, along with public toilets and showers. It’s an ideal location to soak in some sun and be one with the sea and the sand.

Did you know the beach is open for just women and children who are under the age of 10 on Sundays and Wednesdays from 7 am to 10 pm, and for families the rest of the week from 7 am to midnight?

Well-manicured lawns, fresh flowers, shady trees and plenty of fun activities to enjoy in a fresh and green environment. It’s a great attraction for the whole family as there’s something for everyone. There’s a zoo that’s a new and exciting addition to the park, a museum, a skateboarding area, two separate children’s play areas; one for the older children and one for the toddlers. That’s not all! There’s a huge aviary in the park that houses peacocks and other birds, an Amphitheatre, a battery-operated train that’s a favourite with children and much, much more. 

Al Thakira Mangroves are considered to be the oldest and biggest mangrove reserve in Qatar. It’s a beautiful place to visit and very tranquil; the beach area is perfect for swimming, sun-bathing or just laying back and relaxing. It’s a great place to kayak and bird watch.

Purple Island, or Bin Ghannam Island, is not too far from the Al Thakira Mangroves, and is another must-visit natural wonder in the Al Khor area. The name of the island comes from the ancient times when the area was the main site of the Kassite-controlled purple dye industry in the second millennium BC. Today, visitors can kayak or hike around the island, and camping is allowed onsite, offering a rustic experience surrounded by natural beauty and exotic flora and fauna.

The best time to visit Al Thakira Mangroves and Purple Island is in when the weather is cooler in Qatar between November and February.


Dukhan is an industrial city in Qatar’s western region and that became popular when oil was discovered there. Almost all the people who live there are employees of Qatar Petroleum. The city is off limits for others and photography is not allowed within Dukhan.

The area around Dukhan is, however, very popular with visitors as there are lots of interesting sites and attraction to see in the area. 

Must-see attractions in the area include

Dukhan Beach has rocky cliffs that make for a truly Instagrammable landscape. This is a great spot to swim, surf, dabble in some snorkeling and explore the surrounding reef. A great place to camp, Dukhan Beach is a picturesque beach that’s both serene and tranquil; perfect for some family fun.

Then there’s Zekreet, a small town near Dukhan, which is home to the crescent-shaped Bay of Zekreet and a monumental landscape with a unique Umbrella Rock Mountain. North of the town, there’s the old and abandoned Zekreet Fort, which may have been built by pirates two centuries ago. Though in ruins now, its single square turret and three circular turrets are very much visible. Kite surfing and star gazing are very popular in the area.

Here, on the small hill next to the village, there are prehistoric graves that have been cut from bedrock, and on other hilltops that surround this rugged landscape, there are remains of burial grounds from the Dilmun civilization that inhabited the area once. These graves and burial grounds are awe inspiring and make you wonder who these people were, what they did, why they lived here and how they became one with the land. 

Just outside of Zekreet, a special art installation created by critically acclaimed American Artist Richard Serra towers over the area amidst the Ras Abrouq rock formations. This installation is made up of four tall 14-metre-long steel plates spanning over one kilometre, and as you marvel at it, see how you can interpret this huge piece of art. To ensure the four steel plates were perfectly aligned, Serra assessed the area’s landscape land and used his art to enhance the desolate desert area. The final piece is spectacular, and though it’s a contemporary art installation, it’s ageless and timeless.

The Film City has a bit of mystery surrounding it. It’s a small mud-rendered Bedouin style village set with the desert as a backdrop. Why it’s there no one is quite sure. Some say, it was constructed as a set for a Hollywood movie or an Arabic movie and others say, Film City was used for a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 promotional video. For whatever reason it’s there, it is a great place to visit and understand the way people in the area once lived in simplicity.

Madinat Ash Shamal

Madinat Al Shamal is located in the northern most part of Qatar, just near the tip, where it came into existence in the 1970s, and though, today, it is probably Qatar’s most least populated area, it is surrounded by dilapidated and abandoned fishing villages, and a range of beaches to relax, soak in the sun and enjoy the experience, and year round, visitors flock to the area to enjoy all that Madinat Ash Shamal has to offer.

Must-see attractions in the area include

Fuwairit Beach is the site of the Hawksbill sea turtle hatching, and it’s closed off from April till July every year when it’s turtle hatching season, so the turtles are not disturbed and can feel free in their natural habitat.

Fuwairit Beach, Shamal Beach, Maroona Beach, Azerbaijani Beach and Al Ghariyah Beach are all located in this Shamal area and each beach is unique in its own way with sandy beaches, clear waters and a serene environment where you can be one with nature. 

Al Ruwais

Al Ruwais is located to the east of Madinat Ash Shamal and is a small coastal town with some great landmarks.

Must-see attractions in the area include

Arsan Café is a must visit if you’re in the area. A old and derelict police station has been converted into an artisan café with a great view of the Arabian Gulf and some of the best coffee in the area. 

Definitely a must visit if you want to watch the sun rise or set in its full grandeur. Nestled in a quiet and corner of Al Ruwais, the green-blue water on this beach is clear and shallow, so letting the water run over your feet and walking barefoot in the sand will have you falling in love with this beautiful unadulterated beach, that’s a perfect spot to enjoy the day as a family.

Abu Dhalouf

Abu Dhalouf is located on the west of Madinat Ash Shamal and seems to be almost part of it. It’s a quiet town but has one of Qatar’s nicest parks.

Must-see attractions in the area include

Abu Dhalouf Park is one of Qatar’s nicest parks. It has something for everyone to do from the little ones to the adults. The park is lush green and is filled with trees, hedges and colourful flowers. There are two play areas where the children can have fun and play games, while the adults set up a picnic. It’s a lovely spot that opens onto a beach with shallow waters so the little children can also enjoy the water. The views here are fantastic and if you’re in Madinat Ash Shamal, this park is not to be missed.


Mesaieed is another oil and gas hub in Qatar and during the 20th century was recognized as an area of prime importance. In 1949 it became Qatar Petroleum’s tanker terminal, to grow Qatar’s oil industry, because of the deep waters that surrounded the area, and also because it was close to Doha.

Located in the southeast of Qatar, it houses employees of Qatar Petroleum, but that isn’t it’s only claim to fame. Mesaieed is surrounded by beautiful beaches and golden sand dunes. 

Must-see attractions in the area include

One of the most popular beaches in Mesaieed is the Sealine Beach. It’s ideal for families and groups of friends because it offers a wide variety of activities that include, but are not limited to, swimming, camel riding, safari tours, camping, dune bashing and all terrain vehicles that you’ll see racing across the dunes. It’s a great beach to catch the sunrise or the sunset in Qatar, and camping is a must do in the area.

You can also find the Singing Sand Dunes in this area, which like the name suggests, make music or singing like sounds, in a group of crescent shaped sand dunes. This ‘singing’ is caused by friction or wind caused by running, walking or sliding down the dunes. 

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