Welcome back to Top 10 Cities in the Middle East! Today, our top on the best architectural samples of the orient goes further with the magnificent capital of Qatar, that undoubtedly deserves its third place in the top. Its position on the coast of the Persian Gulf as well as its state-of-the-art architecture turn Doha into a must-see of the Middle East. Let’s see, then, what this top city has to pride on!
The city of Doha was founded in 1825 under the name Al-Bidda. The city was made capital of the British protectorate of Qatar in 1916, and became the nation’s capital following the independence of Qatar in 1971.
Before 1930s, when oil was discovered, the local economy was mainly based on fish and pearling. The exploitation of Qatar’s oil reserves after the end of the second world war was to save the city, although it was to be some time before the source of their current and future wealth – natural gas – was exploited. Buildings at the time were simple dwellings of one or two rooms, built from mud, stone and coral. Then, in this rush to modernize, much of the country’s heritage was lost, and in Doha now there is only a single remaining wind tower.
Doha is the economic centre of Qatar. Nowadays, Doha is currently experiencing a very large boom, with the city developing very rapidly. Due to the dramatic increase of population, the economy is moving away from the dependence on oil. There has been a massive development in the real estate sector. Construction is also booming in Doha, a result of increasing corporate and commercial activity there. 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.
Now, let’s find out more about some major landmarks in this amazingly modern capital of Qatar…
The Al Koot Fort, most commonly known as the Doha Fort, is a historical military fortress located in the heart of Doha, that was built in the year 1927 by Sheikh Abdulla bin Qassim Al Thani. It was originally built to serve as a police station in 1880 and afterwards used as a jail in 1906. The fort was converted into a museum in 1978, which houses Qatari traditional handicrafts, products and photos of daily life with illustrations.
The Government House, opened in 1969, is one of the most prominent landmarks.
The National Museum, housed in a splendid Arabian palace, was opened in 1975. A visit to the National Museum is a cultural highlight of any Doha vacation. Set in an Arabian palace surrounding a salt-water lagoon, this museum boasts vast and varied exhibits including traditional art, architectural artefacts and ornately furnished rooms. In 1980, the building won the Agha Khan award for restoration and rehabilitation of Islamic architecture. This splendid monument to Qatar’s past is now preserved as the heart of the new National Museum of Qatar. The new museum’s innovative design created by eminent architect Jean Nouvel is inspired by the desert sand rose and grows organically around the former palace.
The Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar houses an exquisite collection of artworks from the Islamic world. It was designed by the architect I. M. Pei. The museum’s interior gallery spaces were designed by a team lead by JM Wilmotte of Wilmotte Associes. The museum has a total area of 45,000 m2 and lies on the edge of Doha harbour at the south end of Doha Bay. Construction reached completion in 2006, but the museum was opened to the general public on December 8, 2008.
The Pearl-Qatar (TPQ) in Doha is an artificial island spanning nearly four million square metres. Once fully completed, The Pearl will create over 32 kilometers of new coastline, for use as a residential estate with an expected 15,000 dwellings and 45,000 residents by 2015. Developed by United Development Company and planned by architecture and design firm Callison, the island is located 350 metres offshore of Doha’s West Bay Lagoon area. Residential development on the island is intended to incorporate various national and international themes, including aspects of Arabic, Mediterranean, and European culture.
Dubai Towers – Doha is a super-tall skyscraper with a roof height of 400 m, currently under construction. When completed, the structure will be the tallest building in Qatar. The 84-storey towers are being developed by Sama Dubai. When completed the mixed use tower will include a 7,000 m2 retail area, 13 floors comprising a 225-room five-star hotel, 29 floors of office space and 31 floors containing 226 luxury apartments and three super luxury penthouses. The construction began in June 2007 and the completion is estimated to take place in 2014.
Burj Qatar is a skyscraper in Doha, in the West Bay area. The $125-million building, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, has a height of 232 metres (761 ft), with 46 stories. The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat named it the best tall building in the Middle East and North Africa in 2012, citing the way the cylindrical building uses “ancient Islamic patterns” in its cylindrical design.
The Aspire Tower, also known as Torch Hotel, is a 300-metre tall skyscraper hotel located in the Doha Sports City complex in Doha. The Aspire Tower is currently the tallest structure and building in Doha and Qatar, but it is expected to be surpassed by the Dubai Towers Doha and the Barwa Tower.
With countless spectacular samples of modern architecture and a massive development in the last score of years, Doha would surely show successful examples of urban landscapes. There’s no time for waiting the architectural evolution goes on all over the Middle East area. So does this innovative sprawling city, worth being placed among the greatest Middle Eastern cities. Would you pay a visit there?