Longtime Qatar resident Susie Billings recently wrote a reflection piece on her blog after marking her seventh year in Doha, exploring all the different ways the country has evolved. To highlight the fact that Qatar has changed a great deal since 2007, the British expat has come up with this list of 10 things for Doha News describing what wasn’t here when she and her family first arrived.
The Museum of Islamic Art
This signature building, designed by world famous architect I.M. Pei who also designed the pyramid entrance to the Louvre in Paris, was still under construction when I moved to Qatar in May of 2007, and wouldn’t open for another year and a half.
The Swedish flat-packed furniture company opened its doors in March 2013 and the crowds came the day it opened. Before that, many residents looking for a Billy bookcase or those couldn’t find what they needed at Home Center would get together with friends, order from IKEA Dubai and have it delivered by truck.
D Ring Road
Love it or hate it, D Ring Road lets you get across town without many traffic lights – though these days there is often so much traffic that you just inch along. But at least it exists – it took years for the expressway from Salwa Road to Landmark Mall to open, as it was tied up with construction delays and contractor changes.
Cricket ground with grass
If you haven’t discovered it yet, there is a fantastic new Cricket Stadium on the edge of the Industrial Area. For many residents, the tournament locations of choice are still parking lots that stand empty on a Friday morning, or the brushed dirt pitches north of the Shafalla Centre. But some big games are still being held at the new West End Park Qatar.
Restaurants at the Souq
In 2007, most people did not go to Souq Waqif to eat. You were lucky to find a cup of coffee or tea, and other than the sweets and nut shops that had no seating, there was a take away vendor selling crepes with cheese spread, za’atar and eggs. Now, there is a fabulous array of places to eat with a variety of cuisine, some of which around open around the clock.
The Qatar National Convention Center opened in 2012, and for the past few years we’ve all been watching it grow. Its tree shape branches have evolved layer by layer, and have taken many interesting forms over its years of construction. In fact, the Doha Exhibition Center on Lusail Street didn’t exist in 2007 either. There was only a small exhibition building in downtown West Bay.
So many people, so many cars, so many traffic lights
In 2007, Qatar was home to around 800,000 people – compared to 2.2 million residents today. Back then, there were fewer cars on the road and very few traffic signals, as almost all intersections were roundabouts. There were lovely palm trees and a large grass roundabout near the City Center/Lusail Street intersection where construction workers would nap during their lunch hour.
No ‘Family Only’ day at the malls
Today, Fridays are Family Only day at most shopping malls, largely because of the 4:1 male to female ratio here in Qatar. However, most people here work a six-day week, and Friday is their only day off, so this stops an awful lot of people from hanging out in the cool, air-conditioned malls. When we arrived in 2007, there were no obvious restrictions based on family status to go anywhere. Family Day signs started appearing in mid-2008.
The Torch and its revolving restaurant
The Asian Games had wrapped up in December 2006 and The Torch, which hosted the flame for the Asian Games, stood proud but empty. It had a nice exterior, but was just a concrete shell inside. Over the years, its lights and TV screens provided entertainment near Khalifa Stadium and Villaggio mall, but the hotel and its revolving restaurant didn’t open until late 2011.
Katara Cultural Village
The hills of Katara are currently being landscaped with more plants, flowers and trees, but in 2007, there were no hills at all. You could see the sea from Lusail street and the amphitheater under construction. The next seven years would see a stream of dump trucks bringing mounds of dirt/sand and compacters compressing as the hills of Katara slowly took shape.
What would you add to this list? Thoughts?