Preserving the Old, Introducing the New – Aired May 2007

A land where traditional life exists side by side with modernity – Qatar is the latest business hotspot to emerge in the Arabian Gulf.

Its capital, Doha, is shaking off its former sleepy provincial air, and is now investing in one of the most exciting skylines in the Middle East.

Long home to many Asians, Qatar seeks to further strengthen old bonds.

But has Qatar waited too long and is it now too late for the country to catch up with her neighbours?

What does she have to offer beyond oil and gas reserves?

How does this rapidly modernising nation intend to make her mark on the Arabian scene?

Join Asia Business Channel as we explore the emerging country of Qatar.

Qatar today has one of the strongest and fastest growing economies in the world, thanks to its abundant reserves of oil and gas.

High on its scale of priorities are the principles of a free and market-oriented economy, and national policies are developed with this in mind.

While the country may have only made its mark on the world after it hosted the recent Asian Games in 2006, Qatar and Asia already share a long relationship.

Here is Asia Business Channel’s list of top 5 most notable urban designs in Doha currently.

At number 5 are the city’s many roundabouts with various sculptures. From perfume bottles to the oryx, each roundabout infuses some Arabic flavour into the air.

The West Bay complex make it to number 4 on our list. Influenced by Qatari and Moorish architecture, the complex comprises an office tower, residential blocks, as well as the 5-star 4 Seasons Hotel.

Number 3 is Barzan Tower. Designed by Qatari architect Ibrahim Jaidah, the lower part of the building reflects local culture, while the upper floors point to the country’s future.

At number 2 is the Al Waqf Tower. It is a prime example of the trend for combining Arabic and modern influences.

And what tops our list?
The Museum of Islamic Art nestled quietly on the Corniche. The work of world-famous Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, this building will house priceless Islamic artefacts collected by the ruling family.

Qatar’s thriving financial sector has been experiencing promising growth over the last decade.

Over the past few years, the government has been opening up the banking sector to increased participation by foreign players.

Indeed according to a major player in the industry, Qatar already boasts an active market, and is one of the best-performing in the region in terms of assets and profitability.

And what does this active financial market mean for Asia?
About 60% of the nation’s GDP comes from the oil and gas sector.

Qatar is expected to become the world’s top exporter of liquid natural gas by 2007, thanks to the help of significant foreign investments over the past decade.

Much of the country’s gas exports go to Asia.

So with all this focus on the gas sector, has the country forgotten about the other sectors of its energy industry?

While oil and gas reserves alone are enough to attract the top players of the industry, Qatari leaders realise that they have to invest in other amenities as well.

Just what are the top 5 things to do in Qatar on a weekend?
We’ve asked both Qataris and foreign residents, and here is Asia Business Channel’s list.

At number 5 is hanging out at Ramada Junction with your friends in the evening. A collection of fancy restaurants and cafes, the laidback atmosphere is perfect for people-watching.

Shopping makes it to number 4 on our list. Head to either Western-style shopping malls like City Centre, or make your way to the beautifully restored Souq Waqif.

Every Arabian Gulf country boasts one, and Qatar is no exception. Its Corniche is U-shaped and offers 7km of space for a family picnic or some football with the neighbours. Spending time on the Corniche is at number 3.

At number 2 is a trip into the desert. From falconry to camel-watching, the desert offers a welcome respite from the bustle of city-living.

And what is the top thing to do on a weekend?
Our number 1 pick is to attend a sports event. After the success of the Asian Games in 2006, Qatar is seriously placing herself on the international sports circuit.

Like most Arabian Gulf countries, Qatar cannot boast ancient man-made wonders. This may mistakenly lead people to believe that the country is not tourism-worthy.

To enjoy the charms of Qatar, one has to put aside the tourist mentality of ticking things off a list, and instead appreciate what the country does best – the warm welcome she extends to every visitor.

And what easier way to become an observer of Qatari daily life than by taking a stroll along the Corniche?

Qatar now also plays host to top sporting events in the world.

But will Qatar attract Asian tourists?

And with the right planning, the tourism industry, like everything else in the country, looks set to develop at a measured pace.

So while Qatar may not yet boast the fast lane lifestyle of Dubai, or the ancient wonders of other Middle Eastern countries, this emerging nation does beckon for reasons all its own.