Doha is the capital city of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008 and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar. Doha is Qatar’s largest city, with over 80% of the nation’s population residing in Doha or its surrounding suburbs, and is also the economic center of the country.
In 1825, the city of Doha was founded under the name Al-Bida. The name “Doha” came from the Arabic ad-dawha, “the big tree.” The reference is to a prominent tree that must have stood at the site where the original fishing village arose, on the eastern coast of the Qatar peninsula. Qatar was under British control from 1916, it was the centre of government of the Qatar Protectorate, and when the nation gained independence in 1971, Doha remained the capital of Qatar.
In 1917, the Al Kout fortress, which is located in the center of the city, was built by Sheikh Abdulla Bin Qassim Al-Thani. Still, during the early 20th century, much of Qatar’s economy depended on fishing and pearling, and Doha had about 350 pearling boats. However, after the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearls in the 1930s, the whole region, including the town of Doha, suffered a major depression and Qatar became a poor country, plunged into poverty. This lasted until in the late 1930s, when oil was discovered. However, the exploration and exportation was halted due to the Second World War.
Today the nation as a whole produces over 800,000 barrels of oil daily. In 1969, the Government House opened. Today it is considered to be Qatar’s most prominent landmark. In 1973 the University of Qatar opened, and in 1975 the Qatar National Museum opened in what was originally the ruler’s palace in 1912. In 1996, The Al Jazeera Arabic satellite television news channel began broadcasting with headquarters and broadcast center in Doha.
Much of Qatar’s oil and natural gas wealth is visible in Doha, which is the economic centre of Qatar. Doha is home to the headquarters of the country’s largest oil and gas companies. It includes Qatar Petroleum, Qatargas and RasGas. Doha’s economy is built on the revenue the country has made from its oil and natural gas industries, and the Qatari government is rapidly trying to diversify the Qatari economy in order to move away from this dependence on oil.
As a result, Doha is currently experiencing a very large boom, with the city developing very rapidly – this is mostly the result of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa’s modernization program. Like the nearby city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Doha’s economy is moving away from its dependency on the oil and natural gas industries, although unlike Dubai; Doha’s main focus is not tourism. Doha is seeing huge amounts of growth, with the population of the city increasing by more than 60,000 between 2004 and 2006; this has caused a boom in the real estate sector, with real estate prices skyrocketing according to the BBC, as of late January 2007.
Doha is now a more expensive city than Dubai in terms of real estate prices. This rate of growth has led to projects such as the Lusail City project, which is being constructed north of Doha and will eventually house 200,000 people. Construction is also booming in Doha, a result of increasing corporate and commercial activity in Doha. This is most visible with the changing skyline of the city, as Doha has over 50 towers currently being constructed, the largest of which is the Dubai Towers at the same time, 39 new hotels are joining Qatar’s booming tourism market, adding about 9,000 new rooms by 2009.
By air, Doha is currently served by the Doha International Airport, Qatar’s only international airport. The airport is the hub of Qatar Airways, a leading regional airline that has recently witnessed a huge expansion. The current airport’s facilities have been expanded numerous times in the last decade, but because of the airport’s proximity to the city, space for expansion is limited. As a result, a new airport, the New Doha International Airport, is being constructed east of the current airport. The new airport is expected to have a final capacity of 50 million passengers upon completion of its final phase in 2015, and the airport is expected to solve all of the problems currently faced by the current airport. The new airport, at more than 2,000 hectares, will be one of the largest in the world.
Doha has an excellent road network which is currently undergoing vast upgrades, including the construction of many highways. The largest such highway under construction is the Doha expressway. Doha has an extensive bus system operated by the Transportation company, which also operates taxis under its Karwa brand. The main mode of transport in Doha, however, is the car, as the bus system is mostly used by the lower-income groups of the country, and there is no metro system operating in the city, although there are plans for the construction of such a system.
The Doha Port is among the country’s largest ports, and is located just off the Doha Cornice. The port is the main seaport servicing Doha, although plans for a new port are underway due to the port’s location in central Doha and the resultant traffic and pollution problems, the proposed location of the port is near the town of Al Wakra, just south of the New Doha airport.
By Shimaa Abd El Mageed