“If you own a car, home and have family in Qatar, you would probably be considered as a poor man” – said friend of mine. They have millions, they have the best jobs and its always summer. However, the richest country in the world is missing something…
Oil and gas have made Qatar the richest country in the world – rich enough for the stadiums and whole supportive infrastructure for the World Cup in 2022. This project will cost them $ 200 billion. Yes, your read well.
However, “unlimited” wealth still doesn’t produce complete happiness in this small emirate, because it brings social changes that not all are going to like.
In late April, the temperature in Doha is cozy and families are getting relaxed in the afternoon enjoying the sunny promenade on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Here summers lasts from May to September, daily temperatures exceed 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit), and often reaching up to 47 degrees (116 Fahrenheit). In the recent years, the panorama of the capital and the biggest city in Qatar has changed a lot: the skyscrapers of steel and glass “sprang” as an artificial forest area that was once only sandy coast. “We have just become urban” said Kaltham El Ghani, sociology professor at University of Qatar. “Our social and economic life has changed – families are getting frequently separated, consumption culture prevailed.” Qatar is by far the richest country in the world with a GDP per capita of $102.000. According to the CIA, about 14% of households in Qatar are millionaires, and in 2013 unemployment was only 0.1 percent. Less than a century ago, there was an extreme poverty, while today Qatar has become a leader in wealth. Use of energy resources started in the forties of the last century, and before that, the Qataris were living from fishing and extracting pearls. Education in Qatar is now free, as well as health insurance. The jobs are guaranteed and there is free apartment for living for everyone. Water and electricity are free too. In Qatar there is no tax even for foreigners. But the question now is how these changes during the years affected the social life.
Now everyone can feel the “pressure” of everyday life in Doha. The city has become one big building site where large areas are under construction or demolished due to rebuilding. Due to traffic jams, citizens spend more and more time away from home and this atmosphere creates stress. According to local media, 40 percent of Qatari marriages end in divorce. More than two-thirds of citizens, adults and children suffer from overweight which is becoming one of the major problem for the authorities brought by the new, modern life. In a society in which citizens of Qatar are minority – the ratio of foreigners and local residents is approximately seven to one – natives say there is growing frustration among young people that foreigners take away their best jobs. In search of more development, the feeling that something is lost on the way is increasingly stronger. The life of the average Qatari family completely changed. Children are mostly grown by nannies from the Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, and cultural and generational gap is increasing. Since last year, head of state is the 8th Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. He is the youngest Arab leader with only 34 years. Alcohol is partly permitted in Qatar – only in certain areas. These kind of zones during the World Cup, will be called “zones of entertainment.” Qatar was the first Arab country to obtain a license for the organization of the World Cup. The journalist Miriam Dahrudzh notes that, as the World Cup is approaching, people in Qatar getting afraid:
“Suddenly the whole world wants to see us. We are a closed society, and they want to come and bring their differences. How then we are about to express our values? “
Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010. Until then, their national team never qualified for any final international football competition. It was questionable how the hot climate will affect on the players’ performances, so it was proposed the competition to take place in winter. While FIFA is still investigating the case how Qatar was chosen to organize the World Cup competition, the Emir is determined to make Qatar the “land of fairytales” until 2022. In fact, this small country already looks like.
Namely, in extravagant Qatar you can already find air-conditioned soccer stadium, swimming pool for horses, shopping center which is a perfect replica of Venice and many more things…
You should definitely put Qatar on your bucket list.