Jan 1, 2023

Travelogue - Doha

This was actually my second trip to Doha. The first was during the time when Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup 2022 back in 2010. I still remember the cacophony of Vuvuzelas (made famous during the 2010  WC in South Africa) when the bid result was announced back then . I had wished back then that I could come back to see the tournament in 2022. 

Two World Cups and 12 years later, we made it.  Back in 2010 in Doha, Messi had scored to win an exhibition match between Brazil and Argentina. Fitting to that, the cup went to Argentina after a thrilling final. We went to see a pre-quarter match between Portugal & Switzerland.  The match was a goal fest, the festive atmosphere at Lusail was indeed an experience.  The fact that World Cup was in Middle East also gave a good opportunity for lot of Indians to see it.  

Much has been written about World Cup in different contexts. I choose to write this in a different context. In 2010, Qatar was a small city drivable in under an hour with not much traffic. There were a few big oil centric businesses, a few banks back then. 

Today, Doha has a swanky metro system with four lines criss-crossing the city - arguably the best in the region . Quite a few large stations are built underground. Hamad International Airport is a Goliath in itself. Qatar Airways has grown atleast 5X from those times I think.   The money that has been pumped into infrastructure investment here has been humungous.  

Can a country or city build its way to prosperity backing on an event like World Cup ? This is the first time that the tournament is being held in a single city. Olympics typically happens in a single city. Just like hosting Olympics, the run-up to the tournament, demand for hosting of the teams , spectators etc caused an infrastructure boom centered around hotels, rental accommodations etc. Even cruise ships were pulled into Doha port to provide temporary accommodation options.  

Will all this infrastructure & investment cause more businesses to come to Doha ? That's the true test of this World Cup extravaganza.  The metro systems have resulted in commute being much easier . There is surplus properties in the market that will make stays affordable. Would this result in businesses relocating to Doha from cities such as Dubai & Riyadh ? That's something that I'm perplexed about. The country had petro-dollars . The rulers placed a bet on this event, not just from 2022 perspective, but also from another 10 or 20 years perspective. The bet is that the infrastructure investments for the tournament will accelerate new businesses coming here and will make it easy for Doha to catch up with Dubai in terms of economy & businesses.  That's a tall ask. After living in Dubai, I admire about their boldness of  "build it, they'll come" strategy even without the backing of petro-dollars.  Qatar has also placed a strong bet in that direction with World Cup being a launch pad.  

Let's see where it takes. I wish I can come back to Doha after another 12 years to see where the city has moved to !!!