When is the best time for a holiday in Qatar?
Like its Arab Peninsula neighbours of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Qatar has an arid desert climate with long baking hot summers and short mild winters. From June onwards temperatures start to climb into the mid-thirties and can exceed 40 degrees Celsius in July and August. Although blue skies and sunshine are the norm in Qatar, the heat becomes less intense as the year wears on. By December, daytime temperatures average in the mid-twenties and continue to be pleasant well into the new year. But heat is lost quickly under the clear desert night skies, so that after sundown temperatures drop dramatically and it can be up to 10 degrees cooler than during the day.
The best time to visit Qatar
When the sweltering heat of June to September subsides, Qatar is like a different country with locals and travellers able to go out and about during the day, strolling the corniches and souks, and taking part in all manner of activities. The country is an ideal winter sun destination, but any time between October and May is a fine time to visit. Sun-worshippers will get the most tanning time either side of summer but the sun is still very intense at these times of year so take special care to protect your skin.
Festivals and public holidays
Qatar observes the Islamic festivals of Eid, and the holy month of Ramadan, when business hours are limited and transport and general infrastructure is reduced. Though the four-day festival of Eid Al Adha, held between October and November, can be a very illuminating time to visit for travellers interested in local culture, you should be aware that it's a public holiday akin to Christmas in the UK. Though there's little transport or trading, you will find festivities and families gathering at the corniches and a friendly, buoyant atmosphere.
The dates of Eid Al Adha, Ramadan and its culminating feast of Eid Al Fitr, change every year so it's best to check before booking a holiday to Qatar. Ramadan is not a public holiday but most business goes on at night during this period as many locals fast during the daylight hours and can only eat after sun down. There are few businesses that function as normal during Ramadan but resort hotels tend to continue as usual, so if you are visiting on an all-inclusive beach holiday you may notice little difference. If you enjoy a tipple, it's also worth noting that no alcohol is served anywhere in the country during Ramadan.
Though it is a resolutely modern and liberal corner of the Middle East, Qatar is still a relatively conservative country by western standards with a few aspects that travellers may want to consider. Beach wear, for instance, is perfectly acceptable in your resort and, of course, at the beach, but shorts and skimpy tops are considered inappropriate for shopping malls and strolling the corniche for example. It's worth respecting local customs by wearing shorts, skirts and dresses that are below the knee and tops covering the shoulders when exploring Qatar.
Alcohol is not illegal in Qatar, but as a Muslim country, it puts strict limits on the sale of beer and spirits. In the cities and towns, shisha bars and tea shops substitute for cocktail bars and pubs. Luckily for those who like to enjoy a drink on holiday, international four and five star hotels in Qatar are allowed to serve alcohol.
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