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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Qatar Tourism: Not Up to the Mark?

According to a story in the Peninsula today, a majority of residents in Qatar felt that the development of tourism in Qatar is lacking. What's more, we have to agree.

While there has been a marked increase in the number of expensive hotels in Qatar, there has been no matched development in theme parks, water parks or the other amenities expected by tourists. Entertainment City should eventually arrive, but with the usual delays it will be some years before this makes a difference. There are no decent beaches in reach of Doha, and while Al Wakra has been cleaned up a bit it is certainly now what a tourist paying top whack prices would expect!

Some of Qatar's greatest assets have been underplayed. Very little is ever heard of camel racing, something which many Western visitors to the country would be interested in, and it is very difficult to find out when all but the major races are on. Nor is the desert marketed as well as it should be - although I do enjoy my trips to the singing sandunes, where there is rarely anyone else to disturb the peace!

You can see fishing in Qatar on the tourist movies on Qatar Airways, but it hard to book a professional trip - each time I have tried I have been let down. People who have been on dhow fishing trips have complained that they only caught one fish.

What has developed is shopping - but not everyone is as keen on shopping as Arabic ladies! Even to get to the admittedly impressive shopping malls, you need to get a taxi - not always an easy task any more!

Most of the musuems in the country also seem to be shut, although this situation is slowly improving. The Waqif Art Centre is now open, although it hardly matches Qatar National Museum, which has now been closed for several years. Eventually museum lovers should be cheered by the opening of the Islamic Museum in December, assuning that it is not delayed again.

Hopefully, things will improve - I have even heard rumours of a secret ski-slope in the desert to match anything the UAE can provide - now that would put Dubai's noses out of joint!

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