I’ve been going to Qatar’s capital city regularly for over a decade now, and it never ceases to amaze me how this “aerotropolis” changes each time I step off the plane.
During a lightning visit to Doha to interview Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker, I managed to find an hour to finally pay a visit to the city’s museum of Islamic art. As well as having a fantastic collection of exhibits, the museum is an impressive building architecturally, both inside and out – it was designed by renowned architect Leoh Ming Pei. The museum is an icon of the waterfront in Doha – although that did not stop my relatively inexperienced taxi driver from getting lost trying to find it!
The view from the museum lobby provides an impressive vista of the expanding Doha skyline across the bay. Nestled in the foreground is the pyramid-like Sheraton hotel. I stayed here on my first visit in 1999 and recall that at the time it enjoyed a somewhat lonely existence at the far end of the corniche.
During my stay I also had a tour of the new international airport – and was among the first visitors to arrive at the terminal via the newly completed approach road. The impressive development, which has been built on reclaimed land, looks structurally complete – some of the gates already have airbridges attached awaiting the arrival of their first passengers! It is due to be handed over next year, and my guess it will be operational by 2013. It will be able to handle 24 million passengers a year.
Since my last visit just over a year ago, there’s been more development of the existing airport, despite the fact that it is due to close within around two years. The main terminal building now only handles departures, with an all-new arrivals terminal having been built on a plot previously used for the Asian Games event. Qatar Airways premium passengers, of course, have use of a dedicated terminal, complete with jacuzzis.
I’m not sure when I’ll next be in Doha, but I don’t expect much to have stayed the same when I am!