No History, But Charm Nonetheless

A recent trip to Doha reveals a city with little history, but also the revelation that history is not the only aspect of a city's charm.
April 14, 2009, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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"'You are in the souk ancien,' he said proudly, arms outstretched, and repeated himself: 'Ancien!' It sounded even more ludicrous in French, because Doha's 'old souk,' where we were indeed having dinner, had been rebuilt about five years ago.

This is Doha as I had come to understand it: a place of unrelenting newness, the very embodiment of the new. In the two years since my previous visit, the office towers surrounding the Sheraton Resort and Convention Hotel on the city's West Bay, where I stayed, had practically doubled in number, though the proportion that remained unfinished, roughly half, remained about the same.

This is the standard knock on a place like Doha. It is a city that grows without changing its character – or, more precisely and less charitably, without acquiring any. Roads are built on top of desert, then named after whatever landmarks are nearby: Airport Intersection is the turn into the airport, Television Circle is the roundabout outside Al Jazeera's offices. At the Doha Golf Club, there are 10,000 cacti, every last one imported from Arizona."

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Published on Monday, April 13, 2009 in The National
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