Qatar: A City State?
Look for a list of cities on Qatar, and you might think that the country consists of a number of different cities. The list is impressive for a country just over 100 miles long from point to point. (London, a fairly compact city, measures about 30 miles across.) In addition to Doha, you will find Al Wakra, Al Khor, Messaieed, Dukhan, Umm Slal (sometimes sneakily divided into Umm Slal Ali and Umm Slal Mohammed), Shaninaya and Ras Laffan.
However, drive to some of these cities and you may be in for a shock, for what is called a city in Qatar would barely merit the label of town in much of the Western world. Go to Dukhan, for example, and you come to a gate with security guards politely refusing you entry.
Dukhan "City" is, in fact, merely a compound for workers, albeit a rather large one with several thousand inhabitants and a (single) school. Around the compound you will find remote beaches, strange limestone formation and small hills but few people.
Become more acquainted with Qatar, and it truly seem seems to be a city state surrounded by a (smallish) area of scrubby desert. Outside Doha, for example, the country only has two major hotels. Al Khor seems to be the one "city" with a hotel all to itself: Al Sultan Beach Resort. Sealine Beach Resort, though in Messaieed area, is not remotely close to any city and is essentially a stand-alone-resort.
Al Khor and Al Wakra are the only two towns (let us call them what they are) worth visiting on their own merits. Al Khor, which has a population of 31,000 (though that is the municipality, not the city) has a few restaurants (although nothing fancy outside the Al Khor community compound), a pretty harbour and a pleasant and sandy Corniche.
Al Wakra also has a harbour (though it is under construction at the moment and is not a pretty site), a beach and some mangrove swamps. Both have football stadiums which could accommodate about two thirds of their respective populations.
Shahinaya is worth visiting for its Camel Racing tracks and the nearby Sheikh Faisal Museum. Drive into the housing area and you will find houses and not much else. Umm Slal Ali has some burial mounds, otherwise it is little more than a housing estate. Umm Slal Mohammed has more to interest than most with two forts and a stream.
That is not to say that these cities are unimportant. Industry from Messaieed provides 60% of Qatar's US$30 billion GDP, while liquified natural gas exported from Ras Laffan (population: 6,500 workers), is going to transform America into the largest importer of natural gas in the world. It's just that you would not actually want to live in one of these places.
But if you are headed to Qatar, or even to one of these towns, do not get too depressed. One reason these towns have yet to develop into much beyond compounds is that the capital city, Doha, is always in easy reach. Al Wakra is barely ten minutes away and none of the other cities are more than an hours fast drive away. Doha itself just keeps on growing; the scale of development has to be seen to be believed and its outskirts already merge with Umm Slal. If it keeps on going at these rates, it may swallow these satellite towns before they grow into something actually worth calling a city.