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Qatar vs Bahrain

Neither one is a tourist paradise, but each offers unique experiences to (very) resourceful tourists. But which is more likely to impress reasoned travelers?


Visa requirements:

You can either get your visa processed by a hotel, a company, Qatar Airways or a relative with a Qatari residency visa. It can take anywhere between five working days or two weeks, depending on the number of visas being processed at the time of application.

Everyone needs a visa. Even if you have a residency visa from a neighboring GCC state, you still have to get a visa to enter Qatar. People of some nationalities can get away with buying a visa at the airport; others have to apply a week in advance.

You know who you are. Score: 1


As far as historical attractions go, Qatar’s offerings are limited. However, unlike most of the GCC, the nation’s capital, Doha, boasts a renovated souk, Souk Al Waqif, an impressive Islamic Museum of Art and a well maintained, family-friend corniche. However, the country has been accused of lacking a soul, and like Dubai, the city isn’t made for walking…at all. Score: 5

Industry growth:

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (QTEA) chairman, said the tourism sector has been increasing by 20 percent annually. By 2010, Al Nuaimi expects visitor numbers to increase to 1.4 million, up 800,000 from 2005’s official count of 600,000.

However, Qatar acknowledges that a majority of its tourism is business related: “We are not looking to attract mass tourism, but rather a specific niche within the market. Catering to every tourist demographic would force us to lose our identity,” Al Nuaimi said in March 2009. Score: 8

Sports tourism:

Sports is Qatar’s niche. In 2006, it hosted the 15th Asian Games, which, according to the authorities, was a success. The nation also boasts Aspire, the region’s most active sports academy.

Qatar put in a bid for 2016 Olympics, but was voted out early on.  Score: 9

Overall experience:

The problem with Qatar is that it is not finished yet. Outside Doha, the nation is largely underdeveloped, and yet Doha is experiencing a construction boom.

Unfortunately, like other cities in the region, Doha lacks character, and save for a number of attractions, such as the Islamic Museum, the city is faceless and lacking in culture. Perhaps when Doha’s megaprojects are completed, we will be proven wrong. For now, the overall tourist experience in Qatar is disappointing. Score: 1

Final score: 24


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