FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Fast-Paced Doha Gears Up for FIFA 2022

by Ron Bernthal

May 17, 2021

PHOTO:
© HUFTON+CROW,

April/May 2021

Since winning the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup (Nov. 21–Dec. 18), Qatar’s glimmering social, political and commercial capital city of Doha worked nonstop to expand its hospitality venues and improve its infrastructure. It channeled investments into the construction of new hotels, shopping malls, conference centers, cultural attractions and a brand-new metro system.

In addition, Qatar is building six new World Cup- quality soccer stadiums (and renovating two more) in Doha, Qatar’s capital, and in four nearby suburban cities. All stadiums feature cooling systems to combat the desert heat, and all lie within 20 to 30 minutes of city center Doha, a great logistical amenity for World Cup visitors.

Qatar is a small country, just 0.12 percent the size of the United States, but its profitable oil and natural gas exports make it the world’s richest country. During my first visit to Doha in 2014, developers were constructing upscale neighborhoods for the thousands of expats working for local multinational firms, art museums with outstanding collections, and dozens of university buildings for local and foreign students. Doha’s growth in the past decade has been phenomenal; and although many international travelers call Doha a “baby” Dubai, this baby is growing extremely quickly.

In this sunbaked city everything moves at bullet speed. High-rise residential, commercial and hotel towers quickly sprout in every neighborhood like colorful Lego blocks. New asphalt highways shimmer in the heat, slithering their way across the desert to green, oasis-looking golf courses and to the gated suburbs beyond.

The city built its three Metro lines in just two years, enabling sleek air- conditioned trains to glide through the city with efficiency and speed. Visitors may enjoy the 39 ultra-modern Metro stations and avoiding traffic jams, but wealthy locals find it difficult to shun their Mercedes, Porsches and Maseratis for public transportation.

Doha is home to several diverse neighborhoods, including some built only within the past few years. In centrally located West Bay, office towers come alive at night with light shows on their façades, and the Corniche, a four-mile- long waterfront promenade, proves perfect for strolling or biking during cooler months or on early summer mornings before the temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors will find many hotels and restaurants in this area as well as in the nearby City Center Mall, one of the largest shopping and restaurant malls in the Middle East.

A favorite neighborhood is Al Jasra, home to Souq Waqif, the city’s historic Bedouin marketplace that began in the late 1700s. Although beautifully restored, its narrow alleys, the maze of small stone shops and cafés and the ubiquitous knots of buyers and sellers haggling over prices all provide one of the few clues in modern Doha of the city’s Arabian past. The souk offers thousands of items to buy, everything from carpets and Bedouin scarves to incense, nuts and spices. Visit the souk in early evening when strings of soft lights line the alleys and Qataris sit at outdoor cafés with glasses of tea or coffee, enjoying the cooler but still sultry air.

The elite, artificial island of The Pearl-Qatar occupies two square miles of reclaimed land adjacent to the West Bay lagoon. It houses an upscale residential development with luxury apartments, villas and townhouses, all with beautiful views of the sea, harbor and nearby marina. For lunch or dinner here visit Medina Centrale, a Mediterranean-inspired town square with an intriguing selection of restaurants.

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