Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar


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That Dust Storm

People described it as an avalanche or a tsunami of dust. Long term residents of Qatar said it as the worst sand storm they can ever remember.

One minute it was clear, but seconds later Doha was hit by high winds carrying tons of fine dust. People described the noise of the wind rattling windows, of dust seeping beneath doors and through any gap it could find.

dust

In the morning before dawn, the view from our windows was orange with visibility down to 15 metres at most. The photo above was taken around 6:30am when visibility began to improve. The ledges outside our flat were beige. The basement car park and all the cars looked like it had snowed in the night leaving a thick layer of light brown powdered snow behind.

Our part of the building is well sheltered by the larger buildings all around. Our windows were fairly airtight, so the flat remains dust-free. We actually slept through the whole episode, having gone to bed before the dust arrived, and so entirely missed the storm of the century.


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Endless construction

Doha is one big building site. The view across to West Bay has added a number of high-rise glass and steel structures in the time we have been here. But also many of the older buildings, and by that I mean 1960s or 1970s, have been flattened, and many more are now being vacated prior to demolition. Whilst many of these buildings were in a poor state of repair, the character of the older parts of the city is being lost.

demolish1

Whether it is road improvements, the new metro, shopping malls, offices, hotels, apartment blocks or stadiums for the World Cup… whichever way you look the city is a forest of cranes or deep excavations. In between there are hundreds of buildings in various stages of completion. Four apartment blocks have been built opposite our flat since we moved in.

Many of the new buildings are finished but remain stubbornly empty. I am guessing they are speculative builds, waiting for occupants. I am not sure whether this is true, but someone told me that bank loans for construction projects do not need to be repaid until buildings are sold or let.

Then there are the many projects that started but then stopped completely. From our bedroom window, we can see a tall rusting crane standing in a large lifeless plot – see the header photo at the top of the page. The concrete footings are in place and the first uprights for ground floor, yet there has been no work on the site in the 30 months we have lived here.

It has been suggested that there is going to be an oversupply of all types of property. There are many more hotel beds for football fans being built leading up to 2022. It is being suggested that there are more hotels beds than potential visitors. Similarly, once the building boom is over, many of the expats employed on these mega-projects will go home, leaving villas, apartments and shopping malls without residents and fewer customers.

Either way the building boom shown no sign of slowing down in the near future.