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Middle East supplement: Qatar lifestyle

The country, less than 200km (120 miles) long and 100km wide with a population of about 830,000, should become the world's largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2010. Qatar's natural gas reserves are huge - an estimated 160-180 years of supply - which means it does not have to follow the national business models of others in the region, such as Dubai, which depend on positioning themselves as global trading and leisure hubs.

Over the next 10 years, the Qatari government is investing $100 billion into the country, a quarter of which will go into commercial infrastructure, such as the new international airport and development of the capital, Doha, and the rest will be into the LNG industry. Two new LNG processing plants will open in the next two years, and output is due to peak between 2010 and 2012.

But Qatar's gas industry is not based solely on the export crude. The country is also working to develop petrochemical sub-products extracted from gas produced upstream and mid-stream, which means adding value and bringing diversification to the economy and generating a flow of business into the state as well as out.

Max Kingsley Jones/Flight International
 © Max Kingsley Jones/Flight International

Most of Qatar's population lives in Doha. The majority are expatriate workers, with Qatari nationals accounting for just 220,000. If you take out the very young and old, schoolchildren/students and women - who typically do not work - there is a very small pool of 10-12,000 Qataris who are eligible to work in the country's business sectors, such as the national airline - hence the reliance on expatriates.

In contrast to the "party-town" image of its near neighbour Dubai, Doha, like Abu Dhabi, is seen as offering a more serene existence, better suited to family life. It is a modern city, but growth is being controlled and - so far, at least - it does not have the overcrowded feel that exists across the water in Dubai.

This factor alone helps to "self-select" the type of person who applies to work in the country, says Qatar Airways' vice-president cabin services, Bandula Saputhanthiri. "People who choose to work in Qatar tend to be the professional types who are serious about their long-term job and career prospects," he adds.

But that is not to say Doha is a quiet backwater. The city is gearing up for the 2012 opening of its all-new international airport, which will have an initial annual capacity of 24 million passengers and will eventually be able to handle more than double that.

There are many hotels and offices under construction in the city and, not to be outdone by Dubai's "Palm" leisure islands, Doha boasts its own version, dubbed the "Pearl".

Conceived to offer a "Riviera atmosphere" with shops and homes for 41,000 residents, the Pearl has the feel of Venice, with many bridges and waterways. It is being developed by Qatar's largest private-sector company, United Development, and the first sections were opened earlier this year.


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