Qatar’s a new country. You probably already knew that, but I wanted to put things into perspective for everyone. Only 25 years ago, there wasn’t much in Qatar. Some guide books even went as far as calling Doha the most boring city in the world. There weren’t many shopping areas to go to, everything was much more… flat, and there weren’t any traffic problems either.
The education system was lacking, not many people wanted to come visit Qatar (if they knew where the country was), and the internet was probably a few years behind neighbouring countries (you know that I love my precious internet).
That’s not to say that things we’re terrible; not at all. Communities were more tight nit, families visited each other much more often, people were much more humble, and everything wasn’t as fast paced; you could say that of any developing country.
This is a picture of the old Souq.
Here’s a photo of the corniche area probably 12 years ago
Here’s Westbay around 7-8 years ago
Qatar’s used to be a pearl-fishing country up until the 1940’s when large oil and gas fields were discovered. To date, many still think of Qatar as an oil-rich nation, but a majority of the country’s wealth comes from Liquified Natural Gas. It was only in 1971 that Qatar declared independence, 1999 that women were allowed to vote, and 2005 that our constitution went into effect. Next year, in 2013, we’re going to have our first national legislative elections. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you’re in Qatar at a great time. You’re witnessing a huge change in Qatar and a dramatic re-birth in the Middle East.
People seem to forget that Qatar is quite a young country. Although we’ve got skyscrapers, world renowned universities, and the extremely popular Al Jazeera; Qatar is still a developing nation.
Society, people’s mentalities, and the physical landscape is changing. It’s like having a culture shock in your own country. That’s why a lot of Qataris wonder how this change is going to affect our culture and traditions. I often talk about how great it is that there are so many different nationalities here in Qatar. It reminds me of the story of the ancient cross-roads between the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Different people with their own ideologies, educational background, and opinions all coming together and sharing. It’s a great opportunity for Qataris to learn and take on a new perspective. With that though, there are obviously those that are worried about the ‘negative’ influence on a small population. I put the word negative between quotation marks because it’s all a matter of personal opinion of course. To some, it could be something as simple as the youth adopting more westernized fashion for example.
Just as Qataris may have some concerns, there’s a great number of fantastic projects to look forward to. The opening of the New Doha International Airport, Katara, Lusail City, the completion of The Pearl, Msheireb project, the state of the art Industrial Zone, the development of Wakra and Al Khor, the Space City Project, Energy City Project, and Education City are a few of the amazing developments I could think of off the top of my mind.
Besides the great projects, there are also some fantastic focuses on culture, art, entertainment, sport, and education. Let’s think about this for a second. We’re going from hardly anything to working towards having everything with a majority of the development happening in the past 10 years! That’s astonishing don’t you think?
The great thing is that we’ve got the national vision 2030. If you haven’t read it, please do. Here’s a link to it. It’s like a roadmap to what the country is striving to turn into. It’s shaped around 4 pillars; Human Development, focusing on education, healthcare and justice; Social Development, which ensures social care and protection, being actively involved in the region, and contributing towards international peace; Economic Development, which explores reasonable exploitation of oil and gas, economic diversification, and encouraging SMEs; and Environmental Development, where there is a focus on protecting and promoting a greener nation.
I’m looking forward to seeing what that the next 5 years (yep I’m confident a lot will change in 5) will have in store for us. I find myself thinking of that famous quote, “you can’t fight progress’.