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QATAR

Occupying a small peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf is Qatar, a rich Arab state to the north of Saudi Arabia, east of Bahrain and west of the United Arab Emirates.

Many come to the Middle East seeking the mystic, traditional life of the Bedouins, wandering the desert with their life belongings on a camel's back. Although tradition is still an important part of the Qatari ethos, the country has well-and-truly moved into the twenty-first century with the piercing glass skyscrapers of Doha, a booming trade sector and a newly-found place in international diplomacy.

For a comparatively small peninsula in the Middle East, there is quite a lot to see in Qatar. The history-seeker will not be disappointed, with an assortment of ruins, cave art and museums to keep the mind wandering. Most famous is the archaeological site of Zubarah, where there are the remains of what was once a thriving port city. An early 20th century fort on the site still stands as a museum, a testament to a bygone era. The Al-Jassasiya rock carvings in north-eastern Qatar are a remarkable site of 900 petroglyphs that are believed to date back to ancient tribes who inhabited the peninsula during the 15th century BCE.

A number of forts and towers exist around the country; most of them have also been restored as museums. The Barzan Towers stand at the edge of the town of Umm Salal Mohammed, erected to safeguard the country's rainwater basin. Another defensive watchtower stands in Al Khor. The popular Al Koot Fort is located in the heart of the capital Doha, with a wide variety of traditional handicrafts within. Others structures include Marwab Fort, Al Thughab Fort, Al Shaghab Fort, Al Rakiyat Fort, Al Wajbah Fort and the ruins of Al Yussoufiya Fort, Umm Al Maa Fort and Al Ghuwair Castle.

While the National Museum is currently closed for renovations, there are a number of other museums across the country that specialise in history. The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Al Shahaniya is the Sheikh's collection of relics, artefacts and art from Qatar, the Middle East and around the world.

Apart from historical sites, Qatar boasts a number of modern attractions including The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, SouqWaqif, the traditional old marketplace of Qatar, The Pearl, a man-made island connected to Doha by a bridge, Villaggio Mall, a spectacular Venetian style shopping mall with a canal and gondolas as well and Aqua Park which is an aquatic funfair.

Shopping options are available in abundance in Qatar. City Centre is currently the largest mall in Qatar and has many stores to choose from. Other malls include Landmark (includes a Marks & Spencer store), Hyatt Plaza, The Mall, Royal Plaza and Villagio.

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