In just a few years, the capital of Qatar has gone from desert backwater to major player in global tourism, offering cultural riches, top-notch cuisine and a bottomless supply of bling
Author Alistair Crighton Photography Aurelie Korady
QATAR HAS COME A LONG WAY IN A SHORT TIME. Having gained its independence only four decades ago, this small spit of desert jutting into the Persian Gulf now boasts the world’s highest per-capita GDP, and is punching well above its weight in the fields of hospitality, finance and international sport.
It’s a far cry from the 1930s, when a Japanese invention—cultured pearls—devastated the pearl diving industry on which Qatar’s economy relied. Then the discovery of fossil fuels here in the 1940s reversed its fortunes overnight. More recently, Qatar has been on a development binge that’s transformed it into one of the most vibrant and attractive spots in the Gulf.
With the soccer World Cup heading to Qatar in 2022, the capital city’s revival is being stepped up. After spending years in the shadow of nearby Dubai, Doha is emerging as a destination to be reckoned with: a place where travelers can immerse themselves in the best of Middle East culture while knowing that a hot nightspot, hip restaurant or fleet of matching Rolls-Royces is never far away.