Expedition

Amazing Qatar

Precious pearls and aromatic coffee, state-of-the-art architecture and social initiatives — the State of Qatar which is to host FIFA World Cup in 2022 impresses your imagination with its splendor and subtle ability to blend ancient traditions with forward-thinking mindset. Within the framework of the Year of Culture Qatar-Russia 2018, Artemy Lebedev and his team set off on a journey to Qatar to see it all with their own eyes. Meanwhile, we are sharing details of their journey with you at project blog.

 

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Map

The route of Qatar Ethnoexp tour covers over 25 places on the map of Qatar. You can get more information about each of them by selecting a point on the map.

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The State Mosque of Qatar

This biggest mosque in the country is also exceptionally beautiful: it has simple and elegant facades of light sandstone, spectacular mix of right angles and rounded lines, 28 domes above the main hall and 63 more above the forecourt. Officially, the Mosque bears the name of an Arab theologian Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, but is more often called Grand State Mosque — not to be confused with the green Grand Mosque next to the Emiri Diwan or Grand Mosque in Cultural Village.

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Education City

This stadium is constructed at the center of Qatar’s social life — Education City district of Doha with its universities, research centers and thousands of gifted students from all over the world. Innovations have also affected the stadium — its façade is made of triangles which change their color depending on the time of the day and reflected sunshine. Nearly 20% of the construction materials are from sustainable sources to minimize harm to the atmosphere. After the championship, this stadium will become home for the women’s football national team of Qatar.

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Doha

The route of Qatar Ethnoexp tour covers over 25 places on the map of Qatar. You can get more information about each of them by selecting a point on the map.

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Zekreet

Zekreet village on the north-east coast of the country was built in the 1940s, when oil well drilling was initiated in the area. But people used to live here even before: there are ancient fort ruins left from the pioneer settlements. To the north from the village you can find Bir Zekreet protected area famous for its unique geological formations — these erased escarpments create a spectacular light show letting red rays through at the sunset. However, the most astonishing thing is two ghost villages 45 minutes away from Zekreet by car. Film City and Mystery Village were constructed for the popular Arab TV series ‘Eyal Al Theeb’ (The Kids of Wolf). Now this abandoned film set is a popular tourist attraction.

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Ras Abu Aboud

It is the most unusual project of all those listed – brave, unexpected and bold. Judge for yourself: façade of the stadium reminds of multi—colored shipping containers. It is made on purpose – the stadium is being constructed not far from the sea port of Doha. However, the most astonishing fact is that the stadium will vanish into thin air right after the championship: for the first time in FIFA history it will be dismantled into pieces, just like a giant Lego set, and re-used for other projects – in the port or somewhere else.

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Lusail

This stadium is the most amazing one among other Qatari stadiums – the most capacious (82,500 spectators), central (it will host opening and final matches) and the most unusual one in terms of location – the stadium and the city it is situated in are being constructed simultaneously. Lusail city is springing up in the middle of the desert, just like an unprecedented mirage becoming more real and impressive with each coming day.

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Khalifa

Khalifa International Stadium in Doha is the most important one in Qatar. It was the first one (after grand scale renovation) to be commissioned for the upcoming World Cup. In May 2017, the stadium hosted the final of the Emir Cup and the following award ceremony. Basically, it is the first stadium in Qatar – it was built as far back as 1976 – and has long been the cornerstone of the country's sporting tradition, having previously welcomed the Asian Games, the Gulf Cup and the AFC Asian Cup. It is the only stadium that will not be repurposed after 2022 FIFA World Cup, but will host major international tournaments later on.

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Al Thumama

This exquisitely beautiful stadium looks like it was hand-embroidered by some giant weavers. Its design is inspired by the gahfiya – a traditional woven cap worn under ghutra cloth and fixed with the agal decorative black rope. The fact that they wear gahfiya uncovered before reaching physical maturity gives additional meaning to the construction — the stadium symbolizes Qatar’s youthfulness. The project was designed by the famous Qatari architect Ibrahim Jaidah.

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Al Rayyan

Arena is to be constructed in the city with the same name at the edge of the desert, which community is deeply committed to the local team. Now, they will have even more things to be proud of — this arena will host up to 40,000 fans at 2022 FIFA World Cup matches through to the quarter-final stage. Design of the stadium pays tribute to the local nature with its sand dunes in wave-shaped ridges. Just as for Al Bayt Stadium, half of the seats will be dismantled here and used for charity purposes in other countries.

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Al Bayt

This stadium with the capacity of 60,000 people was inspired by the traditional Bayt Al Sha'ar tents historically used by nomadic peoples in Qatar and the Gulf region. After 2022 FIFA World Cup, the stadium will be partially dismantled, like a real tent, while all seats will be sent to the developing countries which have limited recourses to build their own stadiums. Al Bayt Stadium is planned to host semi-finals of 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

It is this organization that is responsible for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It means that it is responsible for nearly everything: construction of eight stadiums and roads (travel time between the stadiums should not exceed one hour), infrastructure, accommodation for hundreds of thousands of sport fans and guests, and much more. This cyclopean scale of the program can be better illustrated with the following figures: almost seven thousand builders are employed at the construction of stadiums and road building. These people represent fifty-one ethnic groups from all over the world. All of them can be proud of the result of their labor for many more years – after the championship, the infrastructure will become an important part of the country’s life and legacy.

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Industrial zone of Dukhan

This city 80 kilometers away from Doha is the place where oil was first produced. It is like a Klondike for the country, but gold is black here. Qatar’s first oil barrel was produced in Dukhan on December 31, 1949. The name of the city can be translated as ‘smoky mountain’ – earlier, there were a lot of natural gas emissions here, which made this place look somehow mystical. You can take an excellent four-way highway to reach the city, but it is rather problematic to enter it – you will need a special permit.  On the other hand, there is not a lot to see here for an ordinary tourist. There is a shopping center for locals, beach and market, but overall, it is all about oil production, with derricks and platforms everywhere. Industrial life is pulsing here, which only purpose is to daily promote economic growth of the country and its people.

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Al Shaqab Horse Racing Academy

In the local triumvirate of noble animals the Arabian horse occupies perhaps a central place — at least in terms of the required investment. Qatari camel farms and falcon hospitals are undoubtedly good, but stables are truly magnificent. In Al Shaqab, apart from riding halls and arenas, there is a pool and fitness facility for horses. The racing center is famous far beyond the country’s borders — each year it plays host to a prestigious international tournament Chi Al Shaqab in the sport of show jumping and dressage.

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Msheireb Museums

There are four museums on the whole, all of them occupy historical buildings from the 1920s organized into a quarter in Mshereib district. The buildings were carefully restored by John McAslan + Partners, London. Original architecture was preserved (even old wooden doors of Radwani house), while the area between houses was designed with visitors’ needs and wants in mind: with benches, water channels and trees around. Expositions differ from each other a lot: from traditional Qatari household items to the history of slavery in the region.

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Msheireb Downtown

New Downtown Doha or Arab Wall Street, as the press dubbed it, is being built on the site of an old trading quarter in the heart of the city. Msheireb will integrate some of the old commercial buildings into its structure and represent an example of the so-called mixed-use development which blends offices, shopping centers, residential buildings, hotels, museums and mosques. Over 300 thousand sq. m were allocated for the construction. The project is currently at the final stage and will be fully completed in 2020.

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Qatar Science and Technology Park

This huge science city opened in 2009 is part of Qatar Foundation — Qatar fund of education, science and social development. It provides special economic climate for the enterprises developing new technologies, including in the energy sector. Today, most residents of the park are scientific and technical branches or affiliated companies of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies.

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Dahl Al Misfir Cave

Gypsum deposits are likely to be found almost all over the world, but even in this context it is interesting that Qatar Peninsula, especially its central part, is located on a ‘gypsum cushion’. Walls of the deep (from 40 to 100 meters, by different estimates) consist of selenite — it is a fibrous variety of gypsum which looks like moon rock and beautifully glistens in the sunlight.

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Al-Wakrah Souk

Al-Wakrah market is often called the second Souq Waqif: like the central market of Doha, there are several tens of shops, stores and traditional Arab restaurants here. All of them are decorated in Oriental style. Next to the market there is a pedestrian waterfront.

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The Pearl Qatar Island

An artificial island in the form of a horse fish is created on the site of former pearl dive locations off the coast of Doha. They call it Arab Riviera: skyscrapers and five-star hotels are situated next to the open terraces of numerous restaurants and endless beaches. Like Riviera, the Pearl Qatar has its own waterfront with high-fashion boutiques, Promenade de la Croisette, and several quarters of expensive real estate — in fact, the island is the first area in Qatar where foreigners were allowed to own property.

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Khor Al Udaid

Khor Al Udaid or ‘Inland Sea’ is recognized as UNESCO cultural heritage — it is one of the few places in the world where sea goes so deep into the desert. In fact, Khor Al Udaid is a huge, but shallow tidal lake connected to the Persian Gulf and divided into numerous lagoons. Pattern of the dunes surrounding it is different in each area. This unique natural attraction is situated 60 kilometers away to the south-east of Doha. However, it will take more than one hour and a half to get there: last section of the road goes through the sands.

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Al Thakira Mangroves Forest

To the north of the coastal town of Al Khor, the only forest in Qatar is situated — a mangrove forest. Water-logged groves of Al Thakira consist mainly of Avicennia mangle trees which are resistant to salt and are possibly the most beautiful ones — their leaves are silver white from the bottom. When the wind picks up, they shine and create a shimmering effect. Herons, flamingos, sandpipers and other birds fly to mangrove forests for the winter.

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East — West/West —East

His main work, according to the artist Richard Serra, is situated in the desert of Qatar, within a natural reserve to the north of Zekreet village. It is an installation made of four colossal metal plates which draw an imaginary line of 800 meters long. These columns remind of enigmatic black monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But while Kubrick’s monolith was affecting human evolution, the Qatari version is appealing to your sense of beauty. The effect is genuinely strong: Serra’s columns shine in the sun like some bizarre space ships.

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Katara Cultural Village

It is an actual village, but an educational cluster stylized as a traditional Oriental quarter — with Arab gardens, wind towers and an exceptionally beautiful mosque covered by leaf gold. In Katara Cultural Village one may listen to a lecture on Sufi poets and their influence on French minstrels, dine at Chapati & Karak and then go to the private beach — everything is available within the quarter.

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Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum

Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani belongs to one of the distant branches of the ruling family, he is the first Qatari billionaire on the Forbes list and a famous art patron. The museum opened in 1998 and owns one of the most important art collections in the country. It is based on Islamic art objects, household articles and other artefacts of Qatar’s ‘before-oil’ era — about 15,000 exhibits which the sheikh has been collecting from around the world since 1960s. There is a separate hall with retro cars from his private collection, including a well-preserved Tin Lizzie, Ford Model T from the 1920s.

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Arab Museum of Modern Art

The Museum exposition includes over 9,000 exhibits — it is the largest collection of modern Arab art in the world, including masterpieces by Mahmoud Mokhtar, Jawad Saleem and Shakir Hassan Al Said. The latter is one of the founders of modern Iraqi art movement and has a significant presence in the museum: there is a permanent exhibition of his art here. Free shuttle buses ply between Mathaf and Museum of Islamic Art, with a travelling time of 30 minutes.

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The Museum of Islamic Art

The museum building was designed by the famous architect Ieoh Ming Pei. In 2008, it was not only an iconic architectural monument for Qatar, but also a symbol of art revolution in the country and the whole region. The building made of cubes rests on an artificial island like a fort, protecting Arab treasures: paintings, ceramics, books, jewelry, carpets, and furniture and household items— everything from inlaid with emeralds inkstands to scent bottles with Indian attar. Ieoh Ming Pei says that this building is one of the most challenging projects in his career: Arab culture turned out to be exceptionally boundless.

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National Museum of Qatar

New building of the National Museum, located on the southern side of Corniche waterfront promenade next to the Museum of Islamic Art, was designed by architect Jean Nouvel, winner of Pritzker Prize and author of several elegant eastern themed buildings, like Arab World Institute in Paris and Louvre Abu Dhabi. The main architectural theme is the so-called ‘desert rose’, crystal clusters of gypsum which develop in the sands due to the special weather conditions. Fragile sand-colored disks resembling mineral petals form walls and floors of the pavilions which surround inner courtyard with a historical palace inside — an old Museum building. Exposition of traditional Qatari clothing and utensils, Bedouin weapons and models of ancient ships will be expanded. Opening is scheduled for December.

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Qatar National Library

National Library is part of the Education City, a region in Doha where all branches and campuses of the world best universities are situated: Carnegie Mellon University, Northwestern University, HEC Pari, et cetera. Its building, designed by OMA Bureau of Rem Koolhaas and Reinier de Graaf, actually unites several libraries — National, public, and university ones, as well as collection of valuable manuscripts of Arab Islam culture. It stands to reason, that library system is fully automated, while almost entire book fond is freely available — you can take the needed book and go to the reading room with it without any assistance.

02

Al Zubarah

There are not so many archeological monuments in Qatar, but Al Zubara Fort located on the coast of the Persian Gulf 100 kilometers away from Doha is one of them. It was founded by Kuwait merchants in the IX century. Some time ago it was called pearly due to the fort’s main trade. Under sandbanks, there are now ruins of mosques, rich palaces, canals and fisher huts. But even that small part of Al Zubara above the ground is quite impressive: battlement of the golden beige fort looks like it was carved out of bisquits.

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Lusail

Lusail city is to stage opening and final matches of World Cup 2022. It is the biggest and most expensive project of the tournament. Construction started in 2006, 20 kilometers away from Doha. Four years later, when Qatar won the right to host the championship, it was decided to construct the main stadium for 80 thousand people here. The city intended for 500,000 people will be a ‘smart’ one — with artificial climate control, underground power and water support and integrated info center, so that its citizens could perform everything, or almost everything, remotely: water flowers, open their garage door and keep watch over their own garden on a smartphone screen. Lusail and Doha (as well as Hamad Airport) will be connected by the red metro line.

02

Falcon Hospital

Falconry is one of the most respectable hobbies in the country. Qatar Airways national air carrier even allows its economy class passengers to take their falcons to the cabin. As a result, bird health care in Qatar is at its best: Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital is not only the biggest, but also the best equipped one in the world. Here, there is a CAT scanner, X-ray unit, endoscopic equipment, orthopedic surgery department and even bank of natural feathers — in case your falcon lost its own ones in the hunting field.

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Souq Waqif Market

Despite rapid development of the country, main bazaar of Qatar managed to preserve its vintage exterior. Souq Waqif is surrounded by a brick wall and looks like an old city within a new one. Here they sell everything which is worth buying in an Arab country — mosaic lamps, steep-sided copper hookahs, ground coffee, and spices. Among spices, saffron is the most valuable one. Unlike its neighbors, in Qatar they will never pass safflower or bastard saffron off as this expensive spice, but sell it in so-called bouquets of saffron stamens, 10 grams each.

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Hamad International Airport

Hamad or New Airport (opened in 2014) replaced the former Doha International Airport, which facilities were overstretched due to the growing passenger traffic. Hamad was ranked fifth and received the highest grade of five stars in the Skytax Rating last year — it is an unprecedented success in the Middle East. Passengers responding to the survey rated airports in 39 categories — from cleanliness in public spaces to the variety of restaurants. As a result, Hamad got into several top tens of the cleanest, most gastronomic and most attractive shopping hubs in the world.

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Al Shahaniya Racetrack

Qatar cherishes its national traditions, as we have already checked on the example of Falcon Hospital. Honorable second place in the list of respected hobbies belongs to camel racing. The most prestigious races are held at Al Shahaniya Racetrack — people from the whole region come here to watch and participate. For some time now, animals are controlled by lightweight robot riders instead of actual jockeys — operators navigate those remotely from their off-roaders while moving parallel to the racing track.