There is no better way to experience Qatar than through its festivals. During the winter, Qatar’s festivities explode onto the scene, thriving on a sense of community and offering a variety of unique experiences.
Whether you want to be educated, entertained, or fed, Qatar’s festivals highlight local talent and offer a little bit of something for everyone. And the best part? There are no entry fees.
Planning a trip to Qatar to coincide with any festival is an excellent way to structure your travel itinerary. Here's a roundup of six diverse festivals, which Qatar celebrates every year:
Al Wasmi Garden Festival
Overlooking the lush backdrop of Katara Hills Park is Qatar’s Al Wasmi Gardens Festival. This festival specializes in floral art and presents the inventive ways flowers can be showcased. Displays include floral sculptures, floral cakes and replicas of famous floral gardens from around the world.
The overwhelming sights and scents of the stunning flowers, artfully arranged, are a feast for the senses. You’ll also be treated to immersive activities such as stone painting, origami, and story time for kids.
Qatar International Food Festival
Qatar is home to people of many different nationalities, so any food festival is bound to tantalize the taste buds with an array of dining options. At the Qatar International Food Festival, dishes range from Qatari and other Arab cuisines to Indonesian, Mexican and everything in between. Local and international artists, as well as DJs, entertain while children are enraptured by street performers.
As you eat and drink, you’ll be enthralled by live cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs and fireworks displays. Food, fireworks, festivities, and fun – what more do you need?
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Ajyal Film Festival & Art Exhibition
Local and international filmmakers have a platform for their cinematic offerings at the Ajyal Film Festival & Art Exhibition, which raises awareness of key global issues in Qatar and across the region. You’ll see film screenings, interactive discussions, pop culture events and a drive-in cinema at this community-focused festival.
A lesser known but equally interesting facet of the festival is the art exhibition that accompanies it. Ajyal highlights the work of local artists, tackling urgent and controversial social justice issues.
Whether you come for the original independent new voices in cinema or the promising artists from local art and culture scenes, the Ajyal Festival is a must-visit when in Qatar.
Pow! Wow! Doha Street Art Festival
Turning electricity hubs into works of art is what makes the Pow! Wow! Doha Street Art Festival so unique. You’ll watch and interact with artists as they produce visually breathtaking murals incorporating color, culture and creativity. Artists are selected from around the globe to participate in this quirky festival and they decide on their own theme or message in each artwork.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll in the winter sunlight while marveling at the transformation of the extraordinary art. The festival lasts a week so it's worth visiting more than once to see how the murals progress.
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Katara Dhow Festival
(Late November to Mid-December)
Before it evolved into one of the region’s wealthiest countries, Qatar had only a small pearl fishing economy and the Katara Dhow Festival is an opportunity to explore those historical traditions. Featuring vendors from all over the Gulf, the festival celebrates the dhow – traditional boats of the region and the history of maritime importance.
Walk along Katara beach and learn how essential dhow boats have been in carving the country’s identity and culture. Vendors are happy to explain the significance of their items on display, including local pearls, crafts, supplies, tools and collectables. Plus, you’ll enjoy live demonstrations of fishing, pearl diving, and trading, and admire craft demonstrations using palm fronds, wood and fishing nets.
Qatar Balloon Festival
There’s something magical about seeing a hot air balloon majestically traveling across the sky, trusting the weather and conditions to get where it’s going. The Qatar Balloon Festival ignites that spark as you marvel at around 35 brilliant multi-colored balloons as they launch from the verdant greenery of Aspire Park. The festival runs for a week, so plan your visit to witness this wonder of ground and sky.
While you’re there, grab some local snacks from the food outlets, enjoy live music, and, of course, let the little ones enjoy the jumping castles. Or go up yourself! You can book a sunrise flight to watch dawn break through the horizon as the city is illuminated with sunlight. A little nervous of heights? No problem – opt for a tethered flight, where the hot air balloon will rise only 100ft above the ground.
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Choose and go!
Qatar packs a huge punch when it comes to feasts and festivals. From the coolest art-stravaganza like the Pow! Wow! Doha Street Art Festival to traditional events like the Katara Dhow Festival to a food fiesta like Qatar International Food Festival, there's always something to do, see and eat. It’s also the ideal way to become more familiar with Qatar’s vibrant ethnic cultures and traditions.