Berlitz Pocket Guide
by Matthew Jones
Qatar changes faster than most countries, and a lot has changed since this book was written in 2006 - for a start the estimated population, fuelled by an influx of immigrant workers, has swollen from 840,000 to nearly 1,500,000. Obviously this leads to inaccuracies in this pocket guide.
Palm Tree Island, which the book describes as a "former barren sandbank that has been transformed into a family recreation and corporate hospitality center," and which is fondly remembered by almost every Doha resident we know, was inexplicably demolished prior to the Asian Games and is once again a barren sandbank. The superb Al Bandar restaurants, a place where you could relax on the edge of the sea, gazing at the lights reflecting off the bay, have also disappeared.
Much has also been created and built. The pictures of the Old Souq Waqif look very different from the extensively restored souq we find today - one that somehow looks more authentic than the original. Other souqs mentioned have disappeared altogether.
But if you buy a book two years out of date you expect some things to have been changed. This was never going to be the most comprehensive guide in the world, but then that is not the aim of a pocket guide. Given this, the Berlitz Pocket Guide to Qatar does an excellent - and cheap - job of giving the prospective visitor or resident a picture of Qatar and an idea of what to expect - and in some ways does a better job of it than Qatar Explorer. Like Qatar: A Business Traveller's Handbook, the book is concise and succinct in its descriptions.
Covering history, attractions, things to do and with a handy travelling tips section, Qatar is an excellent introduction to this small country, and what's more it will fit into your pocket without denting it! As long as you are not expecting the definitive guide, you should be pleased enough with this purchase.