By Colin Hallibuton
Recently I got the opportunity to visit Qatar for the World Cup. I was excited to see the games of course, but also to discover Qatar. Like many others, before the World Cup I had barely, if ever, heard of it. But when I got there and looked around, it was a little different to what I expected.
Qatar is an interesting nation culturally, because it has no culture. It feels middle-eastern, borrowing many traditions and ideas from its neighbours, like foods, architecture, sports, but nothing of its own. Only 8% of the 2.3 million people are Qatari, the rest being migrant workers or immigrants bringing their own cultures. The oil money has allowed it to build a shiny, but thin, veneer of cool skyscrapers and stadiums, but lurking close behind are the rows of empty apartment buildings, deserted hotels, and Lebanese restaurants. Qatar has spent the past 12 years rebranding itself and building everything around this tournament, which brought in over 1 million new visitors. The cost of focusing so heavily on what everybody thinks of you is that they forgot to focus on what they actually are. Even the national museum, while it has an impressive exterior, it only has a couple of exhibits about the nomads that used to live on that land, and where they came from.
These images are some of my favorites that capture the essence of Doha.
One of many stray cats hangs around the new cruise ship port, built for these floating hotels used to accommodate the influx of world cup visitors
A shop owner walks through his falconry store, popular in the middle-east and the national sport of Qatar. The store is noticeably empty of customers, and full of stock.
Souq Waqif is the main market in Doha, built to emulate the traditional trading markets of the area. There are some higher end restaurants and craftspeople, although it mostly has lines of fake jewelry stores and cheap sports jerseys for tourists.
A lone camel rider passed our desert tour, riding into the sunset.
The view from the Qatar national museum, built by French architect Jean Nouvel to resemble a ‘desert rose’.
The view going into Ahmad bin Ali stadium before the USA v Wales game.