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Brilliant news, the Qatar Metro has launched and is running. But what does this mean for visitors? Well the first thing I must point out is that for the moment only the Red Line is operating, and it’s in ‘Preview Mode’ with reduced days/hours and stations. The service is currently operating Saturday to Thursday, 6am until 11pm, Fridays operate from 2pm until 11pm. And there are 5 stations that although not open yet, will be in the near future.

A Summer 2019 Metro Map with most of the Red Line Stations operating
Summer 2019 Metro Map with most of the Red Line Stations operating

How to Use the Metro Red Line for Visitors

You can buy a reusable or single use tickets at any of the stations. There are plenty of really helpful staff around to ensure you don’t have any problem doing this.

Metro Rail Pricing
Metro Rail Pricing

Please see the Metro website for more information: https://www.qr.com.qa/static-content?code=AboutTravelCards

Southern stations are not so interesting for visitors

You can split the Red Line into North and South with Msheireb Station in the middle. Msheireb is the central and main station servicing all lines (when they open). To the south of Msheireb are: Doha Jadeda, Umm Ghuwailina, Matar Qadeem, Oqba Ibn Naif, Free Zone and Ras Bu Fontas. Terminating at Al Wakra. All of these stations seem to be orientated towards commuters as their locations and shuttle bus services focus on residential and work locations rather than places of interest.

However I do recommend riding between Oqba Ibn Naif and Wakrah because you switch from underground to over ground rail, and it’s well worth the views. Watch the video below:-

Msheireb and to the North

It’s the stations to the North of Msheireb that really have interest value for visitors to Qatar. And I must also stress that Msheireb station itself should be on your list of places to visit. So, I’m going to start here.

Msheireb Station

Within easy walking distance of Msheireb Station are Msheireb Downtown Doha and the Msheireb Museums . And as long as you don’t get lost, you may also like to walk around the old Doha areas adjacent before they get redeveloped as well. This will give you a feel for Doha in later decades.

Msheireb Station with Msheireb Development in background

And if you use the free shuttle bus (which runs every 12 minutes), you can take a short ride to the MUST SEE ‘Souq Waqif

Al Bidda Station

Al Bidda Park is really quiet something. It’s a large expanse of green grass, trees and leisure facilities overlooking Doha bay (Corniche). It’s free to enter and is just a beautiful place to chill, relax, BBQ (there are free BBQ stations), walk, run exercise…. Whatever you like to do in a park. And Al Bidda station has an entrance\exit that brings you up directly into it. You may consider visiting in the evening when it’s cooler especially during the summer.

Al Bidda Metro Station has three points of entry/exit. One on either side of Al Rayan Road, and one in Al Bidda Park. This is the Entrance within Al Bidda Park, which brings you right up into the park itself.

Al Corniche

The two main things accessible from Al Corniche Station are the General Post Office, and The Corniche. As a visitor I think you are most likely only going to visit the Corniche, but if you are into architecture or need to post a letter, then the GPO (General Post Office) is worthy of a quick walk.

Very close, and an easy walk to the GPO (General Post Office)

The Corniche is quite simply stunning. And is most definitely a Qatar MUST SEE. When you emerge from the station you will see two decorative above land tunnels. Take the one to the left and you will arrive at the GPO. Take the one directly in front of you and you will arrive on The Corniche.

When you exit Al Corniche Metro Station you will see two above land tunels. One takes you to the GPO, the other to the Corniche

When you cross the road (please be very careful doing this) on the Corniche you will find my favourite restaurant ‘The Al Morjan’. I strongly recommend sitting on the Al Morjan terrace and enjoying a delicious meal while taking in the breath-taking views of West Bay and the tranquillity of the sea.

Emerging from the Corniche Metro Station tunel onto the Corniche

West Bay Station

Located within West Bay, this station is very useful for getting to Ezdan Hotel. And could be used for for visiting Qatar Sports Club which is within walking distance (about 10 mins walk). Other than that it’s commuters who would get most use out of this station. As it’s perfect for several large office towers and complexes. But not much to see as a visitor unless you like walking a lot.

West Bay Metro Station. Good for Ezdan Hotel and offices.

DECC

DECC stands for Doha Exhibition and Conference Centre. And the station is right outside the entrance to the DECC. The station is in very easy walking distance to one of Qatar’s major malls ‘City Centre Mall’ as well the Gate Mall and numerous hotels and office buildings (for which there is a free shuttle bus). If you are not visiting an exhibition or conference, then a visit to ‘City Centre Mall’ is well worth stopping at this station for some retail therapy anyway. The mall also has a very large supermarket if you are in need of supplies.

Doha Exhibition and Conference Centre. Also good for City Centre Mall

Al Qassar Station

Al Qassar station is within walking distance (hot walking distance) of the InterContinental and St. Regis hotels. It’s also right next to the Qatar International Exhibition Centre.

But for the moment its greatest value to visitors is for accessing Katara Cultural Village. Which is another one of Qatar’s MUST SEE locations. https://www.visitqatar.qa/discover/tourist-hotspots/katara-cultural-village.html

Sometime soon the Katara Metro Station will be open. But until it does Al Qassar serves the purpose very well. But be sure to use the underpass that will deliver you safely from Al Qassar station directly into Katara without having to cross a major road.

The two types of Standard Class disposable tickets are; ‘Single Use’ which costs QR 2 (GBP 43p, USD 54 cents) and will take you from any station to any station (but not back again). And ‘Day Pass’ that will allow you to ride all day long (within a calendar day) getting on and off wherever you like as many times as you like for QR 6 (GBP £1.29, USD $1.64). Both can be bought from machines located within the stations using cash (QAR only I’m afraid) or card. Help is available, you will not have a problem.

A Rechargeable Standard Class Travel Card costs QR 10 and you can add as much credit to that as you like. It will then deduct QR 2 for each journey you make. However, the maximum it will debit per day is QR 6. After QR 6 you ride for free within the same day.

Travelling in style with ‘goldclub’

If you want to ride in the Gold Class carriage, your going to need a ‘goldclub’ card. And that will cost you QR 10 (GBP £2.15, USD $2.74) per journey. However if you are using a rechargeable ‘goldclub’ card which costs QR 100 (GBP £21.58, USD $27.47) to buy (before you add credit), or a ‘Gold Day Pass’ which costs QR 30 (GBP £6.47, USD $8.24) you can ride all day and pay only a maximum of QR 30.

Gold Class cards are also available within the stations, and in fact there are special Gold Class offices, so you even get special treatment buying your cards.

Please see the Metro website for more information: https://www.qr.com.qa/static-content?code=AboutTravelCards

What is Ramadan – A dummies guide for non-Muslims

Ramadan is the Islamic Holy Month during which Muslims commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. During this period, from sunrise to sunset Muslims practice fasting. They abstain from eating and drinking (yes even water) from dawn to dusk. And many give up things like smoking and sex 24/7 for the entire holy month. It’s a time for pure thoughts. So no saying or even thinking bad things about others. A time for extra prayer. And a great deal of charity work/donations.

Ironically although Ramadan is a month for fasting, there is a great amount of eating getting done in the evenings when it’s ok to do so again.

When is Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar. Because the lunar calendar shifts around 10 or 11 days to the left of the Gregorian calendar (the calendar you are probably familiar with) each year, thus Ramadan arrives around 10 or 11 days earlier each year. In 2018 it is expected that Ramadan will start on May 15th. But this is only confirmed upon the sighting of the new (crescent) moon.

How long does Ramadan last

29 to 30 days. Ramadan ends on the sighting of the next crescent (new) moon. And then there is a massive celebration and public holiday called Eid al-Fitr.

Is Ramadan a Good Time to Visit Qatar

There is never a bad time to visit Qatar. The very hot season, the cold season and what I call the Mediterranean season all have their benefits. And Ramadan also has many great benefits. Especially if you like eating. One major benefit of staying in Qatar over Ramadan is the amazing hotel rates. You can enjoy massive discounts for accommodation during the Holy Month.

It is especially worth being around for Eid al-Fitr. This festive end to the month of Ramadan lasts 3 days (much longer if you work for the Government). And is kind of like Christmas holidays in the west. A time for family, vacations and a lot of fun. Including even more eating.

What to expect during Ramadan in Qatar.

Qatar is one of the countries that embrace the Holy Month in full. During daylight hours all food and drink outlets are closed for business. You can still go shopping and buy food and drink, you just can’t consume it until daylight ends (in public).

During Ramadan the streets appear much quieter during the day. Working hours are reduced so that people can get home and rest while fasting. Being hungry and thirsty can be quite challenging, so the best place to be is at home where you can conserve water by not talking and stay cool in the comfort of your home air-conditioning.

Another reason the streets seem empty is because everyone is in the supermarkets shopping for ingredients to use in the evening’s festivities (Iftar). During Ramadan every day resembles Christmas Eve in Tesco back home in UK to me. With frantic shopping taking place to ensure your loved ones will enjoy the very finest fare to break fast with at sunset. And once the shopping is done there is all the cooking and food preparation to be done.

Malls and shopping centres look and feel different when all their food outlets are closed during the day. They are quiet. Not only because there is no one chatting over coffee in Starbucks, but because music is not played during Ramadan either. Some public places instead of playing music, play readings from the Holy Quran.

Most hotels cater for those not fasting by setting aside somewhere for daytime meals to be eaten out of sight of those fasting. Of course, you can eat and drink all you like in your room, but nowhere in public.

Your dress code should be much more conservative during Ramadan. Ladies should try and avoid showing too much skin. Qatar has become quite tolerant of Western dress, but during Ramadan it would be most disrespectful to have too much on show. Even men need to be more covered up. Avoid shorts as much as possible outside the hotel. Three quarter lengths are not too bad, but just try and avoid dressing in a manner that will cause offence. And for goodness sake try and avoid using expletives when you are conversing in public. You should avoid that always here in Qatar anyway. But during Ramadan be extra careful with your language.

All bars and restaurants throughout Qatar stop serving alcohol during the Holy Month.

Driving in Qatar During Ramadan

Driving gets a little quicker and impatient during the day. Thirsty and hungry drivers on their way home to rest tend to be in a little bit of a hurry. Then in the evening just before sun down, everyone is rushing to get to their break fast location. It’s tradition to do a lot of visiting during Ramadan, so you spend the whole month breaking fast with different relatives and friends. And you will be in a hurry to get to where you are going to break your fast the moment you are allowed to. Then it goes quiet. Everyone is inside eating. The roads are deserted. Until everyone has eaten. And then everyone needs to get somewhere else. Another relative to visit, or business that you were too tired to undertake during fasting now needs to be attended to. And of course… more shopping.

Iftar

Everyone is listening for the call to prayer at sunset because it’s the signal to break your fast. Anyone not in hearing distance of a mosque, will almost certainly be tuned into the radio listening out for the moment you can start eating and drinking. And the name for this moment is ‘Iftar’.

Cannon located at Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab Mosque (state mosque), during Ramadan. Fired to signal it’s safe to eat and drink

Iftar is best shared with friends and family. Some people have their Iftar at home. Some like to take picnics to parks or the Corniche. You can see them setting up their spreads before sunset and then sitting patiently waiting for the signal to begin.

Nearly all restaurants have a special Iftar menu, and a great many have Iftar buffets. If you are staying in a hotel, then an Iftar buffet is almost certainly going to be on offer. Iftar buffets range in price from around QR 50 (GBP 9.85 USD 13.75 EUR 11.25) to around QR 350 (GBP 68.90 USD 96.20 EUR 78.60). As with everything you get what you pay for. The more you pay, the better the fare on offer. But how much can you actually eat?