A tiny territory occupying a peninsula jutting out in the Gulf, Qatar is not the first name that leaps to mind for people visiting the Middle East. However it is an ideal place to get a sample of the Middle East, being neither as Westernised as Egypt or conservative as neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Doha is the only city of any note in Qatar and home to more than three quarter's of the country's population. Bolstered by the vast mineral wealth of the nation (it is reckoned that tiny Qatar has more than five per cent of the world's remaining gas reserves) Doha has become a modern, international city. Not only has the wealth enabled Doha to build the vast skyscrapers that are the trappings of success throughout the Middle East, but it has also brought with it a cosmopolitan population of expat Europeans and Asians.

Elsewhere in Qatar there are some impressive, if understated, sights - of which the vast Khor Al Adaid is undoubtedly the most spectacular. Surrounded by towering sand dunes the mass of water well deserves its local name - "the inland sea". You can also see a fair few examples of the traditional Arabian architecture. Although Doha has eradicated most of its older buildings the Ethnographic Institute still boasts its traditional wind tower, and throughout the country a selection of forts, houses and municipal buildings illustrate regional architecture of the last couple of centuries.

Never likely to be the first choice for people seeking to explore the Middle East, you might just find that Qatar's mixture of modernity with traditional Arabic culture makes it the perfect place to begin to understand this enigmatic region.



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