Qatar - Attractions
Around the Gulf, Doha has earned the unenviable reputation of being the dullest place on earth. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who'll claim the place is exciting. That said, there's nothing wrong with Doha - you're unlikely to get shot or mugged or die from cholera. The bay is pleasant and there are enough interesting sites around town to keep you occupied for a day or two. Doha is also the only place in Qatar with hotels (and an airport), so even if you're travelling around the country, you'll be stopping through here.
The Qatar National Museum occupies what was once the palace of Shaikh Abdulla Bin Mohammed, emir from 1913 to 1951. The museum includes an aquarium over two levels: the top floor is full of stuffed fish, but there are live ones in the appealing surrounds of the basement. The sea turtles are probably the best thing here. Other collections include an interesting piece on seafaring and traditional celestial navigation methods, and displays on Islam, desert life, astronomy, the oil industry and the traditional lifestyle of the Qatari people.
The Ethnographic Museum is in a restored traditional Qatari house, found in the centre courtyard of a new souq shopping complex. The museum looks at life before the oil boom and explains how an ordinary family would have lived. The house includes one of the Gulf's few remaining wind towers, a traditional form of air conditioning in the region.
Doha's fort is really just another museum, fairly similar to the National Museum. There are some good displays on traditional crafts, including carving, goldsmithing, rope-making and weaving. There's also a postal museum, but you'd have to be a keen philatelist to make the trip. If you're on a 'roller coasters of the world' tour, don't miss Aladdin's Kingdom, the only amusement park in the Gulf where you can ride the wild rails.
Umm Salal Ali
This town, 40km (25mi) north of Doha, is famous for its field of grave mounds. The mounds are very old, probably dating from the 3rd millennium BC (archaeologists assume that, as Islam forbids cairn burials, these mounds must be from pre-Islamic times). Although hardly on the scale of Bahrain's mounds, it's definitely worth a look if you've never seen a mound field.
Umm Salal Mohammed
The first town north of Doha, Umm Salal Mohammed's raison-d'être is its fort, which is open when someone is around to unlock the door (mornings are your best bet). It's a relatively small, whitewashed rectangular building with two towers, one of which rises to a height of four storeys. Near the fort is a small mosquewith an old minaret, recently been restored to its original state, and some ruined mud-brick fortifications. Umm Salal Mohammed is 25km (15mi) north of Doha.