Doha, Watar

The Riyal Deal

Is Qatar putting its money where its mouth is?

Doha is becoming a destination of interest from different perspectives. Potential jobseekers see opportunities to settle there, while a minority visit as tourists.

Perhaps all visitors, specifically those who have stayed in Dubai can’t avoid the comparison between two cities. Why? Because Doha, with its current developments, gives the impression that it is following the trend of its Gulf neighbour.

For example, the skyline of West Bay is made of exceptionally interesting and sculptural buildings, but looking from the perspective of the short term visitor, the area may remind us of Dubai Marina.

Furthermore, the large areas of low density developments, predominantly villas and other areas with blocks no higher than four or five levels, have a lot of similarities with housing in the Emirates. Doha certainly ‘rings a bell’, yet is different and recognisable.

Tightly linked with the development of Doha and Qatar as a whole are components that cannot be seen as clearly as the physical elements of the environment. The most essential is the population, currently estimated at 1.77 million, where the Qataris comprise the minority in their own country, at 459,000 people.

Going deeper into the statistics, over 94% of the working population are not nationals, with many employed in the construction industry – the largest of all statistical groupings with around 45% of the workforce.

The question is, who will absorb the towers of West Bay, The Pearl Qatar, the upcoming Lusail – the future home of 200,000 residents – and the other new developments?

The absorption may go slower at the present time due to the current situation in the Gulf region and the world as a whole. However, the strategic planning of the State of Qatar by its Planning Council is said to be looking far in advance for the current and future generations.

Since Doha won the rights to host the FIFA 2022, the world is talking about the construction of the stadiums and the associated structures. Inside Qatar there are ongoing and planned developments that seem to be stronger investments for the future of the country; investments that will obviously secure long-term operation and prosperity, such as the Ras Laffan LNG Port Expansion. Located 80km north of Doha it aims to be the largest port for natural gas.

The rapid growth in air traffic resulting from the country’s economic development will be addressed by the ongoing construction of the New Doha International Airport.

Groundbreaking buildings with interesting water themes and curved roofs are not only creating sensational architecture, but also initiate new technologies and challenge existing structural solutions.

The Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha by famous architect IM Pei is yet another investment for the future that the government obviously strongly believed in. Sitting within a 150 ha park this building is a piece of art justifying every riyal invested in it.

Is Qatar putting the money where its mouth is? Looking at Doha, the proof is in the pudding.

Georgina Chakar is an Australian architect and a Master of Urban Planning. She works in Abu Dhabi.