When looking at modern Qatar, you can see why Western travellers came here in search of an imagined Arabia. Even today, it’s tempting to go searching for evidents of that in Qatar: there are rock carvings to testify human persistance against adversities of nature, forts to hint at the ruins of empire, and occasional goat-hair Bedouin tents to suggest the ‘noble savage’ nature of life in the desert. I had the chance to see a small sample of all this during my short stop over there. I can’t say that I know Qatar well but even a short stroll in Doha’s streets gives you hints of the big picture of Qatar’s backround.
Qatar has spent its energies (and considerable fortunes) in making sure of all the above. However,what you see around you today are more a product of rich Western imaginations than anything related to the Middle East. In reality, vast vertical ‘pleasure domes’ of the post-modern variety have been erected in the capital Doha, where I spent most of my time in this small country.
In contrast to the past, all this demonstrates that the country is as international as any other. At least that was until recently. Suddenly, wind-towered developments, like Al-Sharq Village Resort & Spa, proclaim to be ‘genuinely Arabic’; Al-Waqif souq sports ‘antique’ passageways; tented accommodation in Khor al-Adaid comes with air-conditioning. Qatar, in other words, appears to be reinventing itself in the image of Western ‘otherness’ fantasies.
Above all, Qatar is turning with fast rhythms away from its past and is entering a new face of Luxurious Middle East, away from the roots that Bedouins once had there.
For the visitor, it’s wonderful: everything one imagined of Arabia is there in all its easy to enjoy glory. For those who knew the Qatar of hawk souqs and dust storms, however, there’s the suspicion that this country is turning Disney. Go there prepared to see how Arabia is today and not how it was before.
PS. As I didn’t spend the amount of time needed to have a complete picture of the country, I had to depend on my best travel buddy Lonely Planet for filling in the gaps. Thanks for the infomation and the pictures.