Kids in Qatar
Keeping Children Healthy and Entertained in Qatar
A child friendly environment?
Qatar is a very child friendly environment: Qataris as well as many of the other residents in Qatar love kids, and the worst danger children are likely to face is toothache from all the sweets they will get given. (Try taking them to the fruit market, where they will get given fruit instead!)
For people from some Western countries it can be a real pleasure living in a more child tolerant environment.
All health care and medicine is free for babies under one year old. Older children will require a health card costing QR100, after which health care is free. (Emergency health care is always available, whether you have a card or not.) Medicine is heavily subsidised when bought on prescription, costing a fraction of its real price.
Qatar has a similar system of immunisation to most Western countries, and this is available at government clinics. However, there is no system of developmental checks or health visits.
Immunisations are also available at private clinics. We've heard good reports of Doha Family Clinic (not to be confused with Doha Clinic), which is located on Al Nasser Street close to Family Bookshop and next to Doha Clinic.
Qatar has an excellent dedicated children's emergency hospital located on the corner of Al Sadd Road and Bin Hamad Street. Although it is always busy, you'll normally be seeing a doctor in ten to fifteen minutes.
Children's Health Hotline
Hamad Medical Corporation now runs a hotline for consultations on children's illnesses. The hotline is manned by nurses who can transfer the caller to a doctor if needed.
Hotline: +974 4396061
In the summer make sure your children drink plenty of water (they may also need to increase their salt intake) to avoid dehydration. The sun may be a lot fiercer than your country, so make sure they have hats, sunglasses with decent UV protection and sun cream on when outside in the day. There can be a lot of dust in Qatar, which may be a problem if your child has dust allergies.
Keeping your children entertained
There are a number of playgrounds in Qatar, although bear in mind that they will be unusable in the height of summer because of the heat. In the in-between seasons you will find the park getting lively at night, when the heat is not so severe nor the sun a threat. The best playground is in Rumeila Park, and the whole park is a nice area for children, with grass, water gardens, tree to shelter under and a skateboard ramp.
There are a number of other playgrounds, including at Sheraton Park and at Museum Park. You'll also find playgrounds on the Corniche at Al Khor and a rather run down one in the small park at Al Wakra.
Qatar Zoo may not be quite as good as a top notch Western zoo, but it does provide a good day out for the children. There's a good range of animals, though it is weak on creepy crawlies, and a train (pulled by a tractor) which will give you a tour of the zoo. There are some beautiful gardens, and a children's play area.
Tip - When you get to the elephant, ask the keeper if your kids can feed him. He'll call the elephant over and your children can hand him food.
See our page on Doha Zoo for more information.
Horses, Camels and Donkeys
Horse racing takes place every Thursday in the cooler season, and makes a great day out for the children. Entrance and a program is free, and there are pony rides for the little ones. There are also bouncy castles, although if you have little ones bear in mind that the local children can be rather rough.
You will see camels both at the live animal market at Doha's wholesale markets (along with a whole range of other noisy animals), and herds of camels during trips in the desert. The camel racing track at Shahinayya is a great place to visit. When there is no camel race on, you can drive round the track, and wave to the camel riders, or wander round the compounds and be offered rides. When there is a race, you can enjoy the spectacle from the small but modern stadium.
Children can also enjoy donkey rides in Qatar's Souq Waqif.
Many parents take their children to the Corniche after dark, and it is common to see toddlers wandering around or trying out their pushbikes.
The area close to the Sheraton is popular, as there is a cafe serving juice, popcorn and other snacks, as well as grass to play on and trees to shelter under.
There is also a jetty which children can lie on and watch colourful fish swimming in the water below, and a tiny little beach by the jetty. Dhow boat rides around the bay are available from along the Corniche it may be a good idea to get the price written down before embarking to avoid getting ripped off here.
Palm Tree Island
Although you will see reviews of Palm Tree Island all over the net, be aware that it has now been closed down and is no longer in use.
Although beaches are popular, beware of glass left by trippers. You also need to be aware of the potentially fatal stone fish, of which Qatar has two species. Reef boots or are a very good idea for both children and adults alike, on the beach as well as when swimming.
Many people chose to join sports clubs. Garvies European Club is one of the cheapest, costing, at the time of writing, QR1200 to join. Garvies is very cheap and cheerful, but there are many hotel clubs you can also join. Some of these clubs provide extra facilities for children. The Ramada has a child's swimming area, while the Grand Regency provides children's swimming lessons. (Also see: Qatar Hotels.) Unfortunately these hotel clubs are becoming increasingly expensive, with some increasing in price by 50-100% in the course of the last year.
Things are slowly improving in Qatar, and it is possible to get arm bands here now - try Boots in Villagio, Family Food or one of the Carrefour outlets. It remains difficult to get buoyancy jackets, so buy some before coming to Qatar or order some through Aramex.
Sealine Beach Resort
Sealine is a resort near Messaieed, and it's great for children. There is a beach area, with a sea fence for safe swimming. There are also two swimming pools, a bouncy castle and camel and horse riding available. The gardens are also pleasant, with plenty of trees to provide shade. If you don't want to stay the night, you can pay for a day's entrance. Expect Friday to be busy.
As the weather cools down, taking your children to the dunes in the desert is a must. Try the singing sand dunes even if the dunes are not singing, the kids will have great fun running up and down the dunes. Do try and avoid Fridays, though, as this is dune bashing day and there are a lot of reckless drivers around. (You'll see ambulances waiting on the side of the road rather than waiting to be called out from Doha!)
Qatar is in the course of constructing an entertainment city, although as of yet there seems to be little indication of when this will be ready.
Aladdin's Kingdom is located in West Bay near the Grand Regency. It's a run down amusement park which will no doubt be shut down at some point in the park. Still, it has a number of rides still open which will keep the children amused.
Of better quality are the amusement areas in the Malls. In the City Centre there is an excellent amusement area which includes a go-kart track, but perhaps the best is Jungle Zone in Hyatt Plaza. In addition to a number of rides, the Jungle Zone also runs children's parties, which feature jugglers and magicians and are excellent value. You'll also find a small amusement area in Centre Point and another one in Landmark Mall.
There are plenty of cinemas throughout Doha. Villagio has ordered a 3-d cinema, although at the time of writing this has yet to be installed. City Centre has a 14 screen complex, while if you fancy something small and theatre-like try out the three screen Royal Plaza Cinema on Al Sadd street.
In addition, there are ice-slating rinks at City Centre and Villagio, as well as ten pin bowling in City Centre. You can also take the children on a Gondola at Villagio.
Doha's sailing club offer family membership, and have Optimists (small dinghies) for children. They also provide sailing lessons for the children. There is a small beach (which is much cleaner than the Oasis next door) and the children can swim, although be careful of the sharp rocks below the water.
Out and About
As we've said, locals are tolerant, and you can enjoy yourself in a restaurant without worrying too much about glaring looks from other diners. In addition, many of the fast food restaurants have children's play areas.
People will insist on giving children sweets if you want to avoid this, you could invent a medical reason why they cannot have them. Teeth and health does not seem sufficient a reason, which is perhaps why there is such a high rate of diabetes in Qatar!
Some locals do not seem to like children being disciplined in public, and you may get some outraged looks if you punish them in public.
There is a Toys R Us located on Bin Hamad Street (C ring road). You'll find the shop on your left as you head towards Ramada Signals from Hamad Hospital. However, it is rather more expensive than other shops around. You'll find an excellent and cheaper baby shop with toys and baby equipment in City Centre and in Centrepoint.
You'll also find lots of cheap toys in the Souqs (good for stuffing stockings at Christmas time) and in the cheap shops such as Sheen on Ahmed Bin Ali Street, as well as in the big supermarkets such as Carrefour in City Centre and Villagio and Giant Stores in Hyatt Plaza. For the best toys around look in the Early Learning Centres in City Centre Shopping Mall and in Hyatt Plaza.
Nappies (or diapers for you Americans) are easily available, including the more modern pull up types. Most brands of baby milk are also available. Currently, both nappies and formula milk is substantially more expensive than in the UK.
Qatar encourages baby feeding, and mothers are allowed time off for breast feeding. (See Qatar Labour Laws for more information.)
Also see Giving Birth in Qatar for practical information about having a baby in Qatar.