Qatar is a country where old desert forts contrast with a hyper-modern capital city. You’ll find architectural landmarks here that span the distance from towers inspired by traditional Islamic architecture to imposing modern skyscrapers that dominate the city skyline – a rich mix of the old and new.

    The impressive exteriors of many of the landmarks on our list make for some great photo opportunities. But photo opportunities aren’t the only thing on offer here. You’ll find rich offerings of culture and entertainment to sample too. From a national library that hosts numerous free events to an unusual tower built for pigeons, our list of stunning landmarks in Qatar is varied and intriguing.


    Doha Tower

    An iconic tower standing high above Doha’s West Bay

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    The iconic Doha Tower, known also as Burj Doha, rises 238 metres above the West Bay in Doha, Qatar. Its phallic shape rises 46 stories above the ground, with a further 3 floors stretching underground. The French architect Jean Nouvel, who designed the building, described its shape as suggestive of “a fully assumed virility.”

    Though this high-rise office building looms large in the skyline, it's by no means the largest in the city. It is, however, one of the most unique. Its outward lattice of diagrid columns echoes Islamic Mashrabiya architecture, with a design intended to protect the building from the scorching heat and sandy residue that coats many of the glass buildings in the region. A photo of this extremely distinctive skyscraper will serve you well as a memento of your visit. It’s especially beautiful when illuminated at night.

    Location: 1 Al Corniche St, Doha, Qatar

    Open: Sunday–Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm (closed Friday–Saturday)

    Phone: +974 4442 0028


    Aspire Tower

    Enjoy panoramic views from Doha’s tallest building

    Also known as The Torch Doha, Aspire Tower is a 300-metre high-rise hotel in the Aspire Zone complex in Doha, Qatar. The hotel is centrally located and near to several local attractions, including Villaggio Mall Shopping Center and the Khalifa International Stadium. The building’s proximity to this stadium saw it become a focal point when Qatar hosted the 15th Asian Games in December 2006.

    Aspire Tower is one of the tallest structures in Qatar. For a view over a spectacular cityscape and a little fine dining, check out the Panorama Restaurant at the top of the tower itself.

    Location: Baaya, Doha, Qatar

    Open: Panorama Restaurant, Daily from 6 pm to 11 pm

    Phone: +974 4446 5600


    Tornado Tower

    Snap a shot of this distinctive hourglass-shaped building

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    Tornado Tower’s distinctive hourglass shape is instantly recognisable. Also known as QIPCO Tower, this building’s 52 floors stretch almost 200 metres into the skyline. Though most of its space is rented office space, there are a number of restaurants open to the public inside, including a sushi restaurant and a steakhouse. On the 27th floor, you’ll find a gym while fine dining with a view can be found on the 28th floor.

    The tower is located in Doha’s West Bay district. If you’re driving here, there’s ample parking available in the underground car park. If you come in the evening, you’ll get a chance to see the building’s spectacular exterior lighting that secures its position as a highlight of the capital’s skyline.

    Location: West Bay, Majlis Al Taawon St, Doha, Qatar


    photo by Ralf Steinberger (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Sidra Public Art

    Enjoy one of Qatar's world-class public art installations

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    Located right in front of Sidra Medical and Research Center, you’ll find a renowned art installation by the controversial British artist Damien Hirst. Known as The Miraculous Journey, this installation consists of 14 large bronze sculptures depicting the human journey from conception to birth.

    With sculptures ranging in height from 5- to 11-metres tall, Hirst has charted the miracle of birth in vivid detail. The reality for some may be shocking as among the scenes depicted is a breech birth. There was some controversy surrounding the unveiling of the sculptures initially, but this divisive art piece is now widely praised. While some were upset with the harsh realism of the scenes, this fascinating public art installation is certainly worth a visit.

    Location: Al Gharrafa St, Ar-Rayyan, Qatar

    Phone: +974 4003 3333


    photo by Alex Sergeev (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Qatar National Convention Center

    Catch a show at this Sidra tree-inspired building

    One of the region’s premier events venues, Qatar National Convention Center offers several state-of-the-art theatres, conference halls, and meeting rooms within its distinctive building. The building’s facade is designed to resemble a desert tree, the Sidra. At the front of the foyer, you’ll find the world-famous spider sculpture, Maman. You’ll also find versions of this sculpture by French artist Louise Bourgeois in museums around the world, including the Tate Modern in London.

    The convention centre plays host to top regional and international acts and is an excellent spot to catch a show while in town. You’ll find everything here from stand-up comedy and public discussion forums to Hello Kitty Live and classical music, so be sure to check ahead to find something to suit your tastes.

    Location: Ar-Rayyan, Qatar

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +974 4470 7000


    photo by UNCTAD (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Al Zubara Fort

    Visit this UNESCO World Heritage site for a glimpse into Qatari history

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    Located near a now-deserted town of the same name, Al Zubara Fort is a large fort dominated by 3 huge circular towers and a single rectangular one. The fort was built in 1938 by Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani to serve as a coast guard station. It’s now used as a museum and hosts regular exhibitions on the history of the area.

    Located about 105 km from the capital, the remains of the deserted town and the fort protecting it are a UNESCO World Heritage site that lies on the northwestern coast of the Qatar peninsula and can make for an interesting day trip. Be sure to bring snacks and plenty of water and note there's little in the way of shade while exploring here. It’s probably best to avoid arriving around midday and early afternoon when the heat is at its most intense.

    Location: Al Zubara Fort, Madinat Ash Shamal, Qatar

    Open: Daily from 7.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +974 4442 4771


    photo by Vincent van Zeijst (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Barzan Towers

    Visit these aptly named 19th-century towers day or night

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    The Barzan Towers date to the late 19th century and were erected to stand guard over the precious rainwater that collected in the nearby valley. Barzan means 'high place', and with watchtowers that stand over 16 metres in height, the place is well named. The towers were also used for observing the moon to accurately pinpoint the start of Ramadan.

    The towers are just 15 km north of Doha and are open 24 hours a day, so there’s never a bad time to visit. With enormous staircases and impressive buttresses, the architecture here offers some great photo opportunities for visitors, with the best views available from the top. There are some shops nearby too, so you don’t have to worry about finding refreshments while visiting.

    Location: Muhammed, Qatar

    Phone: +974 4452 5555


    Al Wajbah Fort

    Catch a glimpse into Qatar’s storied past at this 18th-century fort

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    One of Qatar’s oldest historical sites, Al Wajbah Fort dates to the late 18th century. The site of significant battles between the Qatari people and Ottoman forces, the fort holds a special place in the hearts of the locals and evokes a strong sense of national pride for many. With thick walls and 4 high watchtowers, the fort contains weaponry displays and exhibits detailing its history.

    Just 15 km west of Doha, access to Al Wajbah Fort is free to the public. The watchtowers stand out impressively in contrast to the predominantly flat landscape that surrounds them. They make for an excellent backdrop for some photographic mementoes of your visit to the country.

    Location: Dukhan Road, Al Wajbah, Al Rayyan

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 8 am to 5 pm (closed Friday–Saturday)

    Phone: +974 4406 9921


    Qatar National Library

    Enjoy one of the many free events hosted by this impressive national library

    The Qatar National Library is not only a national library but a research and public library, too. It houses over 1 million books, as well as extensive digital collections. Membership is open to all Qatar residents and visitors are also made welcome.

    Located in Doha’s Education City, the book collections aren’t the only draw to this library. Each month, the library hosts up to 80 free events that are open to the public. You’ll find everything from a knitting group to art exhibitions going on here. Once a month, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra holds a free public performance. Details of each month’s events can be found on the library’s website.

    Location: Education City, Al Luqta St, Doha, Qatar

    Open: Saturday–Thursday from 8 am to 8 pm, Fridays from 4 pm to 8 pm

    Phone: +974 4454 6039


    photo by Jeremy Wood (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    The Pigeon Towers

    Don’t miss this unique and intriguing pigeon-related attraction

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    Qatar’s Pigeon Towers are undoubtedly one of the country's most unique and intriguing attractions. A popular photo opportunity for tourists and locals alike, the towers also serve an extremely practical purpose. Home to thousands of pigeons, the distinctive towers have been designed to collect their droppings for use as fertiliser by local farmers.

    Located right beside the Katara Mosque in the Katara Cultural Village, the Pigeon Towers are designed in a traditional Islamic architectural style. They are worth the trip to the cultural village alone but can easily be combined as part of an itinerary to take in several other nearby attractions such as the amphitheatre, the convention centre, and even a beach.

    Location: Katara Cultural Village, Doha, Qatar

    Phone: +974 4484 0000


    photo by Creative Commons Qatar (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Shane Mac Donnchaidh | Contributing Writer

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