Qatar may be hosting the Fifa World Cup later this year, but there’s so much more to explore in this country than football. If your vibe is more pampering than penalties, then look no further as the Middle Eastern nation has become a hotspot for high-end wellness and luxury getaways.
But wellness is not a concept that is new to the region. In fact, Qatari culture is interwoven with the principles of Traditional Arabic & Islamic Medicine (TAIM), which follows a holistic approach that combines traditional healing practices with herbal remedies and dietary practices.
Some TAIM traditions have been used in Qatar and the wider region for thousands of years. Now, as we have begun to appreciate the importance of wellness in our lives, it is being given a new lease of life by modern practitioners with new ideas.
Here is the best way to leave Qatar feeling refreshed, healthier, and like a new you.
Where to try TAIM
The newest and chicest resort in Qatar is Zulal Wellness Resort by Chiva-Som, a 280,000sqm property that opened earlier this year. Its concept has already attracted the rich and famous, including Qatari royalty. Its bespoke programs are based in TAIM and at the start of your stay you will be given a thorough consultation with an expert who will assess the best treatments to achieve your personal goals, as well as note any health issues you might have.
The food here is healthy but delicious, and there are six restaurants on-site. Situated in the northern Qatari desert and looking out upon the Persian Gulf, guests are transported into a world of peace and quiet. Minimalist communal areas were designed by acclaimed Belgian architect Axel Vervoordt, who is famous for the monochromatic home of Kim Kardashian, and the property has a library that holds 4,000 books.
Where to eat
Most visitors stay in the capital Doha, the largest city in the country and Qatar’s cultural center. Located at the point where the Middle East meets Asia, the tiny peninsular state has long been a melting pot of cultures, and the variety of cuisine available reflects that. Lebanese spot Bayt el Talleh is a must-try, featuring aromatic grilled meats in a sumptuous setting and views overlooking Doha’s sparkling skyline.
Located at the InterContinental Doha Beach & Spa, La Mar is the city’s best Peruvian restaurant, and features the acclaimed cuisine of celebrity chef Gastón Acurio, including ceviches, fresh seafood and small plates. Make sure to try a signature cocktail, particularly the Pisco Sour, which is a Peruvian speciality.
If you are looking for something a little healthier, Evergreen Organics The cafe is 100% vegan and serves juices, kombuchas and colorful plates of food. It is in the Qanat Quartier of the man-made island The Pearl, which has been designed to be a reminiscent of Venice, complete with canals and even a mini Rialto Bridge.
Where to stay
The five-star Ritz-Carlton in northern Doha is an oasis in the city, with a private beach, sculpted swimming pool complex and spa. It has 374 luxury rooms with sweeping views over the capital, Asprey toiletries, and decor featuring Tuscan marble and French oak. Its seven restaurants and bars make it the perfect setting to unwind in the evening.
Where to get back to nature
For a little piece of paradise go to Banana Island, which is 20 minutes away from Doha by boat. The up-scale resort has water sports including paddle-boarding, kayaking and, of course, a banana boat.
If you would prefer to chill, however, loungers line its golden sands and a spa is on hand to make sure you leave feeling refreshed. You can visit for the day or stay in one of the country’s only over-water villas, and there are seven restaurants.
If you would prefer to be land-based, head out into Qatar’s vast desert for a sand safari, dune bashing in a 4×4, or fishing at inland sea Khor Al Adaid. Sunrise provides particularly spectacular views.
Where to shop
Doha is definitely a rich person’s playground, but you don’t have to have a Cartier budget to enjoy some retail therapy. Souq Waqif is a traditional Middle Eastern market, complete with winding lanes and haggling proprietors.
The market was founded at least a century ago by Bedouins who would sell their goods here, but it was destroyed in a fire in 2003. The restoration has preserved its cultural identity though, and the architecture has been sympathetically designed in Qatari style. Come here for spices, fabrics, souvenirs and shisha, as well as restaurants including the colorful Parisawhich serves Persian food.
Travel details: how to get there
Qatar Airways flies six times a day from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick direct to Doha’s Hamad International Airport, and onwards to more than 140 destinations globally. Qatar Airways is the only airline to have held the accolade “Skytrax Airline of the Year” title for five years.
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