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Qatar honeymoon

The geography of Qatar

Located halfway along the western coast of the Gulf, the 11,437 sq km State of Qatar benefits from its key location, halfway between Europe and Asia.

With more than 80 destinations, Qatar Airways easily connects Qatar to the rest of the world.
A bridge between East and West, Qatar is at the cross roads of economic, cultural and natural heritage.

Qatar is easily accessible from several of the world's major cities:

  • 4.5 hours from Delhi
  • 5 hours from Moscow
  • 6.5 from London
  • 8 hours from Kuala Lumpur
  • 12.5 hours from New York

Although only 187 km from north to south and 80 km from east to west, Qatar is home to 1.5 million residents coming from every country of the world.

qatar honeymoon

Apart from dunes in the south and hills in the west, Qatar consists mainly of flat low-lying rocky desert and coastal salt flats or sabkha. The peninsula has a 563 km sandy coastline with numerous small islets, sand dunes and reefs.

The types of habitats found in Qatar include sand dunes, hammada (Arabic for ‘unfruitful’) desert of rocks and gravel, rocky ecosystems, mangroves, sabkha (salt flats), wadis and runnells, and depressions called rowdat that collect fine sand. Approximately 18% of the land surface is covered by sand dunes or sand. The highest point in the country – at 103 m or 338 ft – is Qurayn Abu al Bawl (Tuwayyir Al Hamir), in the south at the ‘neck’ of the peninsula, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.

The shallow waters of the Arabian Gulf are both warm in summer and high in salinity. Qatar’s territorial waters encompass some 35,000 sq km surrounding the peninsula. Coastal waters are extremely shallow, averaging 30 m along the northern and eastern coastlines, and only 20 m along the western coastline.

The most prominent feature in the south is the spectacular Inland Sea (Khor Al Adaid) where crescent-shaped barchan sand dunes surround a body of salt water with a narrow inlet from the Gulf. This wilderness is a favorite spot for camping and picnics away from the hustle and bustle of Doha. The site is scheduled to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the west coast, the area between Umm Bab and Ras Abrouq is characterized by a range of eye-catching flat-topped limestone outcrops – which together with the sedimentary surface rocks are a reminder that 24 million years ago Qatar lay under the sea.

The shale hills in the west, together with a dry river bed in the centre of the country, are rich in fossils while the low salt flats near Al Shahaniya are collecting grounds for those willing to dig for the attractive gypsum formations known as ‘desert roses’.

The presence of numerous farm estates between Al Shahaniya and the north of the peninsula is evidence of the numerous underground water reservoirs, springs and wells in the area, while the northern and eastern deserts are flat and rocky. Qatar’s onshore oil production is centered around Dukhan, while the natural gas field is located offshore from the East coast.

qatar honeymoon

Climate

Qatar benefits from year-round sunshine, with temperatures ranging from 25ºC (74ºF) up to 45ºC (113ºF) in summer. The best months to enjoy Qatar's pleasant weather are between October and May.

The climate of Qatar is typical of hot and arid desert lands, pleasant in winter and extremely hot in summer. Short transitional periods separate the two main seasons. The air temperature in January averages a high of 22°C and has an average low of 13°C. The minimum overnight low at this time of year has been known to fall as far as 6°C. The temperature also falls heavily after sunset in the desert, where winds can be bitingly cold.

The contrast between summer and winter temperatures is marked, making winter feel much ‘colder’ than the actual temperature would imply.

In July, when the country is at its hottest, the average high is 42°C falling just a few degrees to a minimum average of 30°C. However, the maximum temperature in July and August can exceed 50°C and humidity is highest during these months. Humidity can often reach 90% in summer. If you wear glasses, take care in summer; going outdoors from air conditioning – or vice versa – the lenses will steam up, making you temporarily ‘blind’.

Protection from the sun is most important (especially for children) with particular emphasis on the use of high-factor sun screen, hats and dark glasses. Natural rather than synthetic fibers are preferable for clothes, which should also be loose-fitting for comfort. The sea is usually coolest in late January when the temperature can reach a low of 14°C and warmest in September when it can reach 35°C. Early morning fog is typical of the whole Gulf region, especially in November. However it usually clears by 9 am. Strong northwesterly winds, known as Shamal, can blow for extended periods carrying sand and dust, which also reduces visibility. Rain falls very rarely in Qatar, but when it does it can be torrential and drains slowly. Total annual rainfall rarely exceeds 75 mm.

The first showers of the year (about October) are known as Wasmi. The word means ‘spot’ (referring to the pock-marks the rain makes on the sand) but is also used to describe animal branding. Following the heavy rain, temporary ‘lakes’ appear in the desert where seeds germinate rapidly and, for a short spell, the landscape can appear green. Whereas visitors from cooler countries relish the sunshine and warmth of the Gulf, Qatari nationals love the rain; children go outdoors to play in the water and families picnic in the desert when the skies are clear.

Fauna

More species than you may imagine

Although Qatar has a harsh desert climate with saline soils and warm seas, it has a surprisingly diverse and extensive range of flora and fauna. Approximately 1,900 documented species of animals and plants have been identified, and about 78% of terrestrial species in Qatar are considered rare.

On land, a 2002 UNESCO survey identified the following: 8 species of mammals; 371 species of plants belonging to 236 genera in 61 families; 242 species of birds; 142 species of fungi; 1 species of amphibian; 228 species of invertebrates; and 29 species of reptiles. The marine species identified include: 379 species of invertebrates; 20 species of birds; 136 species of fish; 15 species of reptile; 402 species of flora and 3 species of mammals.

Invertebrates include spiders, scorpions, centipedes, ticks and insects. The smaller mammals recorded include Ethiopian Hedgehog, Cape Hare, House Rat and Cheesman’s Gerbil.

Terrestrial and Marine Animals

Life in the seas is considerably varied, with porpoise, prawn, dolphin, king mackerel, shark, grouper and swordfish. The richest fishing grounds are in the northeast of Qatar. There are also gigantic whale sharks which stay further offshore. There are a number of species of jellyfish as well as five species of sea-snakes, and numerous seashells can be found along the shores. Both the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the endangered green sea turtle can be found and nest on offshore islands as well as on the northeast coast, particularly around Rass Laffan Industrial City. The dugong is listed as vulnerable but has been found in large numbers on the southwest coast. These sea cows are believed to have given rise to the legend of mermaids.

Bird life

Birdlife in Qatar is prolific, with birdwatchers having identified almost 300 species, ranging from sparrow-sized bulbuls to ostriches, once found wandering freely on the peninsula and now being reintroduced to the wild. Among the migratory birds is the bee-eater, a spectacularly colored bird that arrives in September and March and rests for about one week before continuing on its journey. The impressively crested hoopoe is almost as colorful and lives in Qatar all year round. Among the resident birds are huge colonies of green parrots, all descended from birds that escaped captivity. The vulnerable Socotra cormorant, Western Reef egret and several species of terns breed on some of the offshore islands. Outside the breeding season, the coast supports important numbers of the Socotra cormorant, shorebirds, gulls and terns. Many species of water birds have been seen at the freshwater wetlands inland but numbers are generally low. Other birds found in Qatar include flamingo, kestrel, plover, lark and other migrants. King of the seabirds, the osprey, is prevalent in many coastal areas and some nest on tall buildings in Doha. Their nests on the small offshore islands are huge since they return to and extend the same nest year after year. They are often just a depression in the sand – in some instances they leave the eggs to hatch in the warmth of the sun, rather than sitting on the nest to incubate them.

Arabian oryx and other desert animals

Several protected areas have bred endangered species for reintroduction to the wild. A small herd of Arabian Oryx was successfully bred in captivity at Qatar’s Arabian Oryx Breeding Center and moved to three reserves. The Oryx herd in the country is now over 700 while the number of Reem Gazelle reintroduced is in excess of 3,500. An Oryx park was first created in 1979, drawing on stock from private collections in the country. The animal is well adapted to desert life, but was almost hunted into extinction in the 1960s. The Oryx is a gregarious antelope, covering 25 km each night to reach its favorite grazing areas. The average lifespan is 25 years, and it stands between 90 cm and 1m 20 cm at the shoulder and can weigh up to 150 kg. The Oryx can go for long periods without water and can tolerate dehydration of up to 20% of its body weight. Arabian Oryx usually breed from the age of two and a half, with a gestation period of 240-260 days. At birth, the calf’s coat is gray, changing to white and reddish brown as it gets older. Striking black and white patches develop on the nose, cheeks and the top of the head between the horns. The legs darken, the color fading up towards the chest and a black tuft develops at the end of the tail.

Oryx Leucoryx (known locally as M’hat or Al Wodhi, ‘the clear’) is Qatar’s national animal and may have inspired the legend of the Unicorn. The two long and straight, but annulated (ringed), horns are perfectly aligned when seen from the side, looking like one.

Occasionally an Arabian Fox can be found in the desert living in burrows dug out from the sand, emerging to hunt at night. The long-eared Cape Hare is found extensively in the north and has even appeared on small islands. The Lesser Jerboa with tiny forelimbs and long back legs are also particularly active around twilight time. They have just three toes and can jump many times their own height.

The amazing Ethiopian Hedgehog can occasionally be seen at night running fast across the dunes, keeping its body high above the hot sand, its legs appearing abnormally long. Bats are often found in the limestone caverns and also in palm groves at dusk.

Geckoes are frequently found indoors while Skinks can be seen in many gardens. The large stone-colored Dhub blends so well with the rocky desert that it is hard to spot until it moves. When times were hard, its tail was a delicacy. In flat desert areas their burrows look like rabbit holes and are extensive, with multiple entrances.

Even harder to spot is the Worrall, a much smaller lizard that often has a bright orange or sky blue tail. Unless you disturb them they sit motionless on rocks, warming themselves to raise their body temperature after a night’s sleep. If you get too close, they will disappear with a flick of their tail. The majority of Qatar’s snakes are quite harmless, the most common being the Rat Snake, very occasionally found in gardens. Scorpions can be found in the desert, and though poisonous, they only attack when disturbed. However, it is always wise to shake out shoes in the morning on camping trips. Wild bees sometimes build honey combs in gardens while there are a number of bee-keepers producing honey in the country.

Flora

The plants are too numerous to identify individually; additional reading material is suggested at the end of this section. The Shafallah (caper flower) is native to Qatar with a pinkish-mauve and white flower from March to May and an ovoid red fruit containing numerous seeds. In traditional medicine, the plant was used to treat rheumatism, toothache, sciatica, ulcers and female sterility. Shafallah has been identified as the ‘Hyssop’ of the Bible. The name was chosen for Qatar’s center for children with special needs, established by HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, and a Shafallah perfume was created for the centre’s first major fundraising campaign.

Sidra, also known as ziziphus, is the symbol of Qatar Foundation, and can grow to six meters. It is sturdy and deep rooted, and in the past provided valuable shade and shelter. All parts of the tree have medicinal values, including treating snakebites. Its fruits (kanara) are considered a delicacy and are rich in protein and minerals. Ain al qot (literally cat’s eye) takes its name from the appearance of its seeds. It is found mostly in northern and northeastern Qatar and flowers in February and March. Awsaj, a rigid, thorny plant, grows to a height of three meters and flowers throughout the year, with red edible berries. Aqool (camel thorn or pea plant) is a shrubby perennial and a favorite of camels. When the plant is attacked, it exudes a sweet white substance known as manna. The qurm mangrove is found in shallow coastal waters and is another favourite of camels. It grows to three meters and its wood was once used as roof poles. Campaigns to increase the mangroves have been organized at Rass Laffan Industrial City, Al Mafjar and Fuwairet. A very common tree in Qatar is samr, which can grow to eight meters and flowers in May and June. It has leathery seed pods.

Gafnah (shafna) is a very common annual herb growing along roadsides in Qatar and it often looks like a green starfish! Its leaves were used in salads – if the camels hadn’t got to it first. Along the coasts grows qataf. Qataf dominates plant communities and has pink or lilac flowers from March to May. There are five species of acacia that can be found in Qatar – two wild and three cultivated – one of which is al salam. Growing no more than three meters, it has long white spines and bears yellow flowers in April and May. Phragmites australis is a perennial grass that was found quite extensively in Qatar wherever there was brackish water but is becoming less common as construction covers more land.

A strange-looking but edible plant is the tarthuth, rare in Qatar, but found occasionally on salt marshes and maritime sands. From a distance, it looks a little like the head of a bulrush on a very short stem.

More common is the dhanoun, a large perennial with a thick fleshy stem and a thick floral spike with yellow flowers, which makes it look like some strange leafless desert hyacinth. It flowers from March to May.

Truffles grow just below the ground after the winter rains; they are found in sandy soil and truffle hunters, who collect them early in the morning, say you can often identify their presence by cracks in the surface sand and tell-tale dewdrops on the surface.

Date palms are prolific in Qatar and provided both food and building materials in times gone by. The tree has a very small root ball, making it popular in landscaping, as trees can be uprooted and replanted easily. Recently several date groves have been rehabilitated and dates are again being produced commercially.

Dates are a complete foodstuff, being rich in protein, fiber and sugar, as well as having high levels of essential vitamins and minerals. Trees are either male or female (they are planted one male tree to seven female trees), and dates form on the female tree. For those who have just a female tree in their garden, it is possible to buy pollen in the souqs! The lower sections of the trunk are usually treated with a white insect repellent, while the fibrous dying fronds are cut back and removed each year.

Environment

Recognizing the importance of the environment and the country’s biodiversity, the Ministry of Environment has introduced action plans and legislation to ensure environmental protection. Measures include restrictions on weekend camps in the desert, a ban on the collection of plants or birds’ eggs, and preventing the introduction of alien and invasive species.

In 2004, Qatar drew up a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) containing 11 strategic goals that identified the most pressing biodiversity issues with action plans, recognized in 2007 as a ‘complete NBSAP’. Also in 2007, the Al Reem reserve in the northwest of Qatar was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

A number of ‘public awareness’ campaigns have been introduced to familiarize the nationals and residents of Qatar with the need to protect the environment. ‘A Flower Each Spring’ is an initiative from HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Misnad since 1999, with the campaign focusing on one indigenous plant each year. Schools are encouraged to take students on expeditions to the desert to study the plant, giving them the knowledge they can pass on to future generations.

Other initiatives include the annual ‘Green Qatar’ campaign by the former Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture; The Centre for Environment Friends runs campaigns for schools and the wider society; and Qatar University undertakes research programs. UNESCO is working with Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) to develop a Botanical Garden preserving the country’s 300 species of flora.

A number of environmental protection programs have been established by the Ministry of Environment within the boundaries of the northern Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLC). RLC is continuing with a marine survey and detailed record of turtle breeding; birdlife breeding areas have been pinpointed using computer mapping; and Ostrich, Hubara and Reem Gazelle have been reintroduced to the area.

Source: www.qatartourism.gov.qa

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