City Guide to Al Khor
If you go along Suhaim Bin Hamad (away from the airport), carry along under the new underpass by Hamad hospital, and just keep going straight! Drive into and through the desert, past Losail Racing Track, until you hit the town.
You can normally head straight through town and then back along the Corniche, but currently you need to head through the centre of town, past two mosques, and take the third exit off the roundabout after the public library. This will take you to the fish market, museum and beach.
Al Khor (also spelled Al Khawr) means "sea on three sides" in Arabic. Older than Doha but far smaller in size (the whole municipality had a population of 31,000 according to the 2004 census) and importance, Al Khor is located an easy 50 kilometres from the capital city, to the north of Doha. This former pearl fishing centre is currently under renovation beautifully manicured flower beds greet you as you drive in from the desert, but the road alongside the Corniche is shut off and half the city seems to be being dug up.
Al Khor goes back a long time, though habitation has not been continuous excavations have found remains dating back to between 5600 5300 BC, and pottery discovered has linked Al Khor to the Ubaid civilization. Three thousand or so years ago, on the island in the nearby bay of Khor Shaqiq, the Kassite civilization manufactured the royal colour of purple by crushing sea snails. See the History of Al Khor Island for more information.
What To Do
There is not a lot to do in Al Khor, although it does make for a refreshing change to Doha. The harbour is worth a visit, and there is a fish market just in front of the harbour.
You can also walk along the beach, where several play areas have been set up for children, baseball nets strung up and sun shelters erected. The beach is one of the best which can be accessed with a normal car, although the sand is a little course and you need to watch out for glass. Barbequeing is forbidden, which doesn't actually seem to stop anybody from doing it.
At the end of the beach the sand disappears into mangrove swamps. The mangrove swamps are popular with birdwatchers, although they are not nearly as extensive as the ones in nearby Al Thakira.
Between the beach and the harbour, there is a small museum, but this currently seems to be in the process of being renovated. Amazingly, I noticed two public libraries, and a department for the promotion of culture. There may be more things to do in the future, as half the town is being rebuilt, though it's probably worth wandering round the town now to appreciate the older buildings before they get knocked down.
There is a Hamad Medical Corporation Hospital nearby, but most of the facilities available are in Al Khor community. This is a housing complex for employees of Qatar Gas and Ras Gas. The community has a population of four thousand and has a medical centre, a supermarket and several clubs for its inhabitants with swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts and so on. Al Khor International School was established at the behest of Qatar Gas and Ras Gas, and is a satellite school of Doha English Speaking School. Education is also available in French.
School Contact Details
Doha English Speaking School Al Khor (DESS)
Despite being a small town with a population of 30,000, Al Khor has a 20,000 capacity stadium and a football team in the Q league. The Al Khor football team did well in 2007, reaching the finals of the Emir's Cup only to be beaten by Al Sadd.Read about Qatar Football
There are a few restaurants strung along Al Khor's main street - the vast majority of which seem to be Turkish. You can have some very good food here for very good prices - try asking them to put you together a platter of mixed food.
Al Sultan Beach Resort is a new and plush hotel with 224 rooms, all equipped with with wireless internet. It is also the only hotel we could find. We were quoted a pricey 1200 riyals ($330) for a night in a standard room.
Around Al Khor
There are some public gardens just outside Al Khor, and at nearby Al Thakira there are salt marshes which provide a very different scene to the normally dry desert. If you are feeling brave, cross the salt marshes in search of the Al Thakira beach. Losail racing circuit is located halfway between Doha and Al Khor, and has a number of races throughout the year. If you have got a four by four you could also visit the rock carvings at Jabal Jassiya.