PHOTOS: Great Qatar escapes

Qatar’s population dipped slightly at the end of last month, to 2.02 million people, newly released statistics show. The figure is down nearly 29,000 people from Dec. 31, 2013, likely because many schools are on mid-term break this week.

Despite the decrease, malls, Souq Waqif and other popular hotspots in town appeared more crowded than ever over the weekend.

Not all of Qatar is bursting at the seams, however. For those craving a bit of a change in scenery or some quiet, consider heading out of Doha.

To the north, as shown in the photos above taken by Aju George Chris, the area in and around Al Zubarah has some astonishing architecture. The coastal town has also recently joined the ranks of UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and opened to the public in December to share details about the nation’s history.

Also near the top of Qatar is Purple Island, which is just past Al Khor, about 50km north of Doha. It is linked to the mainland by a narrow dirt walkway that is interrupted by a few streams, with big rocks available to step on and cross without getting wet.

Unlike in many other parts of the country, the island is home to different kinds of vegetation and rock formations, as seen in these photos taken by Omar Chatriwala. The island is also strewn with seashells – and unfortunately, increasingly home to visitors’ trash.

Learn more about the island’s history – and get directions – here.

Where are your favorite escapes in Qatar? Thoughts?

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