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Qatar: Evolving from 'Hotel Nation'.
By Jad Salfiti ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On Recent Trends
Monday, 12th May 2014

Exclusive Feature: I’ve spent almost two years of my life living in Doha hotels and in this Qatari capital, that isn't unusual – thousands of expats do the same every year;

The first time was for one and half years in the W Hotel Doha, where my job put me up, a situation that was originally intended as fleeting but ended up stretching out. My colleagues and friends were accommodated in the equally dazzling Kempinski Hotel when the W was fully occupied.

During my second stint in Doha, I stayed at the classy Mövenpick Hotel for three months. The reason I tell you this is not to boast about the experience – though I’ll admit it was simultaneously exciting, glamorous and strange.

That's because Doha is the center of this so-called “hotel nation.” As a British expat living there, I often found that for many things revolving around entertainment, such as restaurants and nightlife, hotel culture reigned supreme. And while that is here to stay, Doha is striving for more.

Doha is the capital of the thumb-sized emirate of Qatar. It is the richest place in the world, with $102,000 per capita beating Liechtenstein and Bermuda.

Most of this money has come from the oil and gas sector and it has made the country rich enough to be ready to host the 2022 World Cup and spend $200billion (£120billion) on stadiums and infrastructure to make this all possible.

For many years, Doha was a sleepy place that saw few visitors. Then two decades ago, Qatar mushroomed after its leaders decided it wanted to be more of a global player.

As a result, Qatar slowly built up an impressive skyline, and opened businesses and universities attracting international talent to staff them. As a result, thousands of foreign workers and expats flocked to the tiny country for the high salaries and generous job packages offered – all tax free.

And those people needed somewhere to live.

Hotels blossomed. Some of the world's biggest names such as the Four Seasons, St. Regis and W Hotels all set up shop. Qatari investors also built imperious accommodations.  As a result, these hotels often became more like homes for Doha's expats.

But now Qatar seemingly wants to step up their place in the “MICE” market. For those not in-the-know, MICE is an acronym for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. They want companies and organizations to increasingly think of Doha when holding conventions and events to rival Paris and New York.

It might sound fantastic for a tiny country that is rarely on many people's radar to have such ambitions. But Qatar has already successfully competed in other realms.

There is its prestigious news channel Al Jazeera English, an award-winning airline Qatar Airways, a burgeoning film industry and a well-established academic hub with “Education City” housing branches of the UK’s University College London, U.S.’s Carnegie melon, Texas A&M University and other illustrious higher education institutions.

And the royal family (the ruling Al Thani family) is not hiding its intent to pack a punch in many other realms such as culture with the I. M .Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art. 

As Qatar moves forward to find its place in the region, and on the world stage, it continues to build hotels at a rate not usually seen anywhere. Now it is moving to lure more and more big events to fill them up. In the past few years, Qatar hosted the UN COP18 –  a major annual environment conference, the Doha-TriBeCa Film festival and the Asian Games.

Dubai and Geneva watch out!

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from is not permitted.

Jad Salfiti is a British-Palestinian journalist based in Berlin. He specialises in popular culture and politics. His work has been featured on Al Jazeera English, The Guardian, Doha Film Institute, and Vice. He now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA).

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