Doha after Dubai
Someone mailed me recently from Dubai, asking what differences he'd notice if he took up a job offer in Qatar. What follows is my answer, slightly expanded. I thought it might be of interest to others in the same position.
The places are quite different. Doha is much smaller of course. The old centre is not unlike parts of Deira Dubai, with lots of low-rise shops, offices and apartments and narrow congested streets. But it's disappearing fast. The inner city is being demolished and rebuilt on a much grander scale, in what's being called the Dohaland Project. Fortunately, this development is properly planned, unlike the random mess of tower blocks thrown up in the West Bay area and called the New Doha.
It's important to realise that Doha is not trying to be the next Dubai. Its development, though rapid, is more circumspect, less extreme. The signs are that it is turning out more like Abu Dhabi.
For entertainment, there's far less in Doha. The Museum of Islamic Art is well worth a visit and the Corniche is a pleasant walk in the cooler months. There are very good sports facilities, but expensive. Very few concerts or live events of any note (and those that there are are usually promoted after they've happened, in a strange quirk of local journalism!) No developed public beaches, except for the Sealine resort which is about 75 km out of town (and expensive). There are a couple of other beaches at similar distance with no development, but nothing to compare with Dubai's Jumeirah or Al Mamzar.
Shopping malls are similar to Dubai's but smaller and less opulent, and the range of goods seems less, but I'm the wrong person to ask, having a deep-rooted aversion to all malls. For me, a shop should have a front door onto a real street! Computer equipment is noticably more expensive here, and less up to date.
The population is even more male-skewed in Doha than in Dubai, which can get a bit wearing after a time.
There are plenty of restaurants of all types and price ranges, from very cheap street cafes to top end hotel places. But the only bars are in four and five star hotels and the prices are excessive. There is no equivalent anywhere in Doha to Dubai's cheap and cheerful Panorama Hotel for example. Also, for the last year or so an annoying law has been in force, requiring the presentation of a Passport or Qatari ID (originals only, no copies) to gain access to any bar.
Rents here are about the same as Dubai used to be. They fell slightly last year but didn't crash. Taxis are much cheaper.
Employment law is generally stricter in Qatar, and they tend to apply the immigration and sponsorship rules to the letter. Anything to do with government offices is a nightmare.
Finally, the climate is a lot pleasanter in Doha. There's usually a breeze that takes the edge off the heat and makes the air fresher. Also, the humidity is lower. That counts for a lot.
Guide section: Generalities
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