City Profile of Doha, Qatar: Important information you need to know about Doha, Qatar.
Doha, the capital city of Qatar is the largest of the cities of the country, where most of the population reside.
Doha is the economic center of the country and the seat of the government. In Arabic, Doha is translated as ad-Dawha. It can also be written as ad-Dōha that literally means the big tree. As the main commercial center of Qatar, 23 buildings, most of them the tallest buildings in the country are in the capital city. The Aspire Tower, hotel and office complex stands at 300 meters, with 52 stories. The highest residential building is the Al Farden Residences, which has 64 stories and rising to 254 meters.
At least eight more buildings that are taller than the existing ones are under construction in Doha, expected to be completed between 2011 and 2014. Doha has been hosts to several international business meetings and sports meets. It hosted the largest Asian Games in 2006; the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 and in 2022 will be the host of the largest venues for the FIFA World Cup.
Before it became known as Doha, the place was founded and given the name Al-Bida in 1825. The small location used to be a pearling and fishing village where Sheik Mohammed bin Thani, the first of the Al-Thani emirs named the village as the capital of his empire. Al-Bida became a haven for pirates in the Gulf, where they can seek refuge. The village was destroyed when the war between Bahrain and Qatar erupted in 1825. After several bloody confrontations with several chieftains, the Ottomans and the nomadic Bedouins, Qatar became a British protectorate in 1916, and Doha was selected as its capital.
Fishing and pearling was still the main industry of Doha at that time and Sheikh Abdulla Bin Qassin Al-Thani built the Al Kout fortress. Al Kout means fortress by the sea in Arabic. The economy flourished until the introduction of the cultured pearls in 1930 by the Japanese. It literally killed the pearling industry in Doha from which the city depended so much and the whole country of Qatar was affected. However, in the latter part of the 1930s, oil was discovered but was put on hold due to the Second World War.
The exploration of oil was continued after the end of WWII. The economy of Qatar made a 180-degree turnaround. Previous buildings and dwellings were razed and new and better-looking buildings were constructed as a testimony to the country’s new-found wealth. The rapid modernization however caused the loss of most of not only Doha’s but the whole country’s heritage. Doha has a natural port but was not deep enough to handle big cargo ships. In 1969 an artificial deepwater port was excavated. Further modifications and land reclamation led to the present-day crescent shaped port in Doha that was able to handle cargo ships for shipment of oil into and from other states in the Gulf. Shrimp processing is an industry that helped sustain the economy of Qatar and its still remains as one of the major industries in the country.
The Government House, a landmark in Doha was completed in 1969. Construction of landmarks in Doha continued and the University of Qatar was opened in 1973, followed by the Qatar National Museum in 1975, constructed in the original location of 1912 palace. Doha is one of the most beautiful cities in Qatar, and where Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani rules the country. From a small fishing and pearling village, Doha continues to change its shapes, from the numerous tall buildings, commercial complexes and land reclamation.
Doha is located in the Arabian Peninsula and experiences a very dry and hot climate. Average temperature in May all through September reaches 100 °F. The city can be quite humid with summer dew point temperature reaching 77 °F and daytime temperature reaching as high as 122 °F. The scarcity of rainfall during the other months, with only about 0.79 inches or rain received in a year, the city can be extremely hot the whole year, although it has a mild winter but the temperature, on the average only dropping to about 45 °F.
With an economy based on international trade, most of the residents of Doha are from other countries and the Qatari nationals becoming a minority in their capital city. The city is a hub for expatriates from South Asia, North and South African, United Kingdom, East Asia, Canada, Australia, United States, France and the Levant Arab countries, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and some Palestine territories. They are now allowed to own lands in Doha, making it easier for them to live and work in Qatar.
Although the residents of Doha are predominantly Muslims, due to the number to expatriates in the city, several churches have been constructed as the Emir had issued decrees to allocated land for churches of different faiths. Our Lady of the Rosary, the first church for the Catholics in the city was opened late in the first quarter of 2008. Doha also has several churches, including a church for followers of Marthomite, Church of South India, Malankara Orthodox, Pentecostal and Syro-Malankara religions.
Qatar’s economic center is located in Doha and the capital city is where one will find the largest gas and oil companies in Qatar, such as RasGas, Qatar Petroleum and Qatargas. It basic economy comes from the revenues from natural gas and oil industries.
The Qatari government though, under the leadership of Sheikh Hamad Khalifa wants to veer away from the country’s dependence on an oil economy and has directed a modernization programs. With the increase of international business conglomerates establishing offshore offices in Doha, its real estate industry is enjoying a real boom and with it, their construction industry is benefiting as well. Tourism is another industry that is generously contributing to the nation’s coffers.
Doha is a very luxurious city that has about everything you can imagine you will find. It has some of the best shopping centers in the world, with a diverse range of modern conveniences. You can enjoy water sports activities to keep you cool or you can go around the countryside on a jeep safari to explore the surrounding desert. Golf, jet skiing and kite surfing are available, so is horseback riding. You may experience an occasional sand storm but there are several indoor facilities where you can enjoy other activities when the weather outside gets challenging. Doha is a mix of modern and traditional Qatari lifestyle where you can see a few ancient architecture as well as modern marvels of design and construction.
The Wind Tower is the only one left in Doha. Qataris adapted to the desert life by constructing houses and buildings with wind towers. A wind tower is usually a square structure build on top of a building with vertical openings on all sides to catch the wind and funnel it down to the rest of the building. Due to the numerous battles and race for modernization not much of the heritage were preserved. The only wind tower in Doha is located in Souq Ahmed near the Grand Hamad Street.
If you want to see the history and culture of Doha, you can visit the Heritage Village at the Corniche at al-Rumaila Park. There is a mock up of a traditional Qatari seaside village. During the festival season, the village showcases folk dancing and music, Sadhew weaving, wickerwork and the serving of traditional Qatari food. There is also a demonstration on pearl weighing and selling.
Speaking of history, you can also take a tour of the old Doha Fort, built in the Moorish style. It is one of the remaining fortresses that have been used by the military during the 1880s. From being a military barrack it had been turned into a prison. The fort now has a vast collection of traditional Qatari craft, such as wood carvings with intricate designs, traditional woven fabrics, gold work and traditional paintings.
The Corniche is the Champs Elysees of Doha. Walk along the promenade that is 7 kilometers long and spend time at the parks, view the spectacular skyline in the early evening or have a grand time spending a late afternoon to view the blue waters of the Persian Gulf. If you are up to it take a Dhow boat ride on the bay and visit the Palm Tree Island across the Corniche. It is an artificial island build from a sandbank. It had been turned into a recreation place for families. It has a seafood restaurant where you can view Doha’s skyline from a distance.
Doha has many souqs or markets where you can enjoy shopping at lower prices. One of the most popular is the Souq Waqif, open from 10 to 12 in the morning and again from 4 in the afternoon until 10 in the evening. It is located in the center of Doha. It is an ancient market where you can shop for herbs, spices, incense, traditional clothes, perfumes, camel blankets and Shisha pots and pipes. You can also enjoy traditional Middle Eastern and Qatari food from the various restaurants and coffee shops at Souq Waqif.
For something truly unique, visit the Spiral Mosque located near the Souq Waqif. It is a reproduction of the Al-Mutawwakil’s Great Mosque found in Samarra, Iraq. It is a recent addition to the many attractions found in Doha but is fast become a very famous one. The Spiral Mosque is part of the Kaseem Darwish Fakhroo Islamic Center and can be visited (pre-arranged) as early as 7:30 in the morning until 10 in the evening. The spiral minaret is best viewed at night when it is lit.
Expected to be completed at the end of 2011 is the Pearl of Qatar, another artificial island that is being built at the site of one of Doha’s old pearl diving sites. When finished the artificial island will resemble a string of pearls with 13 islands, the largest of which will have schools, apartments, 5-star hotels, luxury villas and international restaurants, cafes, entertainment centers and retails outlets to the world’s most popular brands. Eight of the islands will be available for private ownership. The land reclamation will add 32 kilometers to the coast of Qatar.
True to Doha’s multiculturalism, some of the customs and traditions from other countries have made their way into the lives of modern Qataris. However, there are still customs and traditions that are still practiced today.
Pork and alcohol are not served in public following Muslim traditions. When you are offered food, it is best to refuse the first offer, although your host will be insistent until you partake of something. Eat at least a small amount and leave something behind.
Coffee is part of the cuisine. The coffee is sweetened Arabian coffee and spiced with cardamon (cardamom). Tea is also served to guests. A sweet coffee called qahwa helw, made with the infusion of sugar, cardamom and saffron is usually served by the elite and during special times.
Life in Doha is more liberal and expats are allowed to wear their traditional dress, although it is still advisable not to show too much skin. Skirts that end below the knees and pants are acceptable for the office, but sleeveless tops and blouses made of thin fabrics and have low necklines are not acceptable. Women expats are not required to wear an abaya and head scarf in Doha.
Hospitality, public separation of males and females as well as respect for family privacy must be observed at all times. Visits by people other than relatives are to be conducted outside the house or in a designated area for guests that is separate from areas in a home that are used by family members. It is considered disrespectful to be inquisitive about the family of an acquaintance and it is considered rude if one does not accepts a person’s hospitality. One good word you should learn is “Inshallah”, an Arabic word that translates to “God Willing,” which is more acceptable than an outright “no.” A Qatari on the other hand will also be considered rude if he does not extend hospitality to a guest.
While some Qatari women follow modern tradition and can shake hands comfortably with men, it is advisable to follow their lead and not to offer your hand in greeting. This is also true with men, so it will be best to follow their lead. It is also advisable to follow a Qatari’s lead when it comes to seating arrangements due to their traditions of separating genders. Use your right hand when giving and receiving something.
It is a good idea to exchange pleasantries first than discussing business right away. And Qataris are not as obsessed with time as Westerners and it is considered rude to be looking at your watch every now and then when talking with a local. However, you also have to contend with locals answering their mobile phones even during business meetings.
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