Doha, Qatar has an ambitious plan and they don’t do anything small. City planners have a dream for 300 skyscrapers and have over 100 built already. They built their own ex-patriot island community on a scale so grand and style so artificial it feels like Disney World with a massive penis enhancement. They built a Pan-Asian Games torch so big that it now houses a hotel. The list is endless and the scale is always massive.
Trouble is, almost nothing about the city is complete. In fact, it looks like one big theme-park construction site. I know. I’ve seen theme parks being built. They look exactly like this. Fantasy buildings surrounded by piles of dirt with little to no landscaping. Exactly like a Disney Park, pre-opening, I swear.
Now before I seem too judgmental, let me say that I do give the Qatari credit for their monumental vision. They know how to dream, plan and build on a scale that rivals science fiction writers. Even the water is a miracle of desalination. They shouldn’t even be able to keep 300 people alive, let alone a million. But they do it.
Yet, as a traveler, there’s a bit of a feeling of having arrived too early. Don’t get me wrong, I am amazed by many of the things I’ve seen a done since arriving here.
I’ve met and talked to warm and wonderful Qatari and many of the equally amazing ex-patriots who live and work here. I’ve explored markets and photographed stunning sights. But you can’t help but want to come back when they clear away the dust and have the grand opening celebration. Because right now, I have this sense that I should be wearing a hard hat and reviewing construction plans, rather than frolicking among the amazing attractions.
All this has led me to an insight about the Qatari: They are obsessed with the new. They respect the old and they certainly maintain their traditions,with Shari’a law applied to many aspects of family, inheritance and certain criminal offenses. But overall, they are a forward-looking people.
I spent my entire day yesterday wanting to see the old. I wanted to see where these people came from and what their roots were like. I wanted to see original construction and faded paint. But for nearly the entire day our tour guide showed off half-finished towers, construction barriers and giant piles of sand that were being used to create hilly housing projects.
At first I rebelled. I didn’t want to sit on a tour bus and look at constructions sites of colonizing-Mars proportions. But as the day progressed I began to see that this was at the very center of what these people were about. They had a plan and they wanted everyone to know about it.
Would I recommend that you come to Doha? Absolutely.
As I start to share more of my experiences here I know you will catch a vision for why you should visit and what you should do with your time here. But don’t come to discover their roots.
If that’s your goal, you’ll have a rough time finding them and you may be disappointed. But if you arrive with a desire to embrace their vision of the future, then this is a city with endless possibilities.
As it continues to grow, I’m certain you’ll be amazed by each new feat of wonder they construct. Just bring that hard hat and some rose-colored glasses.