Qatar inherited a Bedouin culture, and its influence is still evident in Qatari society. Because they were nomads, the Bedouin developed a culture based on poetry, song and dance, rather than on buildings and fine art.

At weddings and other celebrations, folk singers, dancers and musicians perform traditional music, and storytellers recount time-honoured tales. Traditional dances are performed on Friday afternoons during the summer months in Doha. In one of the traditional dances, the ayyalah, the performers pretend to be fighting a battle. Two rows of dancers, facing each other, wave sticks or swords as they move to the beat of the drums. Each row sings challenges to the opposite side to the accompaniment of a big drum (al-ras), three smaller drums, tambourines and copper cymbals. Ayyalah drummers use sticks of palm wood, while other types of drum are played with the hands.

Qataris produce many beautiful handcrafts, including fine jewellery. Traditional Qatari jewellery includes the al mirtaesha (a gold necklace that may cover the chest down to the waist), the al kaff (a gold bracelet that almost completely covers the hand), and the al tasa (a decoration for the head). Qatari embroidery is also renowned. Gold thread is used to produce elaborate women's clothes for special occasions. Sadew, a Bedouin handicraft, involves dyeing and weaving the hair of goats, sheep or camels into brightly coloured carpets, bedcovers or saddlebags. Al-safaf (weaving palm leaves and cane to make baskets) is a specialty in some villages.

Doha contains some striking examples of modern architecture, which incorporate elements of traditional Arabic style and decoration. The city also has more than 700 mosques, including the Grand Mosque, which has many domes. The national museum is housed in a former royal palace, constructed in 1913 for Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed. The ethnographic museum occupies a restored Qatari house with a wind tower, built in the early 20th century. Wind towers were a feature of traditional houses; they caught even the slightest breeze and funnelled the cooler air down into the house.

   Did you know?
Abdel Rahman al-Mannai is a Qatari playwright and the author of Umm Zinn (The Most Beautiful), a play in the Qatari dialect. He has also translated several English plays into the Qatari dialect.

   Did you know?
Traditional musical instruments used in Qatari music include the rebaba and the oud (both stringed instruments) and the Arabian flute.