GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
A. Alraouf
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Dohaization: An Emerging Interface Between Knowledge, Creativity and Gulf Urbanity.
Paper Proposal Text :
Extended Abstract
The ceremonial opening of London’ Shard Tower, owned by Qatar Investment Authority, was a prime scene in the unfolding drama of Doha’s endeavor to construct a new urban development brand within the Gulf and the Middle East. The critical narrative of constructing such a brand is the focus of this paper. Apparently, during the last decade, Qatar managed to engrave a niche in the global stage. As a result of its position in the global energy market, the country is going through massive expansion and has the resources to support this growth. In this essay, I will interpret and analyze the process of constructing such a brand; Dohaization.

The State of Qatar is a small peninsula, with a total area of 11,500 km2 of flat, featureless terrain, with various sand dunes in the south and rocky desert in the north. The Country is connected to the Arabian peninsula from the south where its borders with Saudi Arabia are located. It has population of more than 1.7 million, at least 85% of them are expatriates (Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA), 2012). Just a few years ago, Doha was referred to as a “sleepy town”. The city was perceived as one of the most dull cities in the world. In 2008, the Lonely Planet guidebooks rated the city as the most boring city on earth (Lonely Planet, 2008). Nevertheless, the new city, almost a village few decades ago, is so determined to establish itself as a new destination and admired global player.

Development in Qatar has occurred at an unprecedented pace. In the matter of a few years, the country has gone from being one of the poorest countries to being the richest country on earth. Qatar has experienced remarkable economic growth over the past decade. Between 2004 and 2010, real GDP grew by an annual average of around 16.2%, and over this period Qatar’s economy grew faster than any other. Measured in purchasing power parity terms, its per capita GDP is now the highest in the world. With enormous and increased revenues from its exports of gas and oil, Qatar has invested heavily in economic and social infrastructure, as well as, in the well-being of its people. There have been remarkable increase in all socio-economic indicators.

Qatar was inspired to open up to development and reproduce Dubai’s rapid boom. Also, with all the similarities between Dubai and Doha and the pace at which Doha is developing, questions concerning Doha’s development are raised. As Al- Thani (2011, p:38) rightly asked will Doha be the next Dubai or will the country maintain control over its pace of development and social repercussions. Yet, Doha was so swift, even before the financial crisis of 2008 and its sever impact on Dubai, to realize that imitation is antithesis to uniqueness and distinctiveness. Consequently, its development efforts should be geared towards a new unique identity that radically different from the model of Dubai or any other Gulf State.

The new Doha’ skyline suggests its arrival to the global stage (© Ali A. Alraouf).

The Culture of Calculated Risk.
The recent history of Qatar is suggesting a dare attempt to go beyond the traditional norms of Gulf politics and economic strategies. When it comes to the decision making process in the Gulf states, some common patterns are repeated and collectively applied. For the sake of this paper, I will shed some new light on two crucial and determinant acts in Qatar’s contemporary history.

Act One: A New Paradigm of Leadership is Needed.
The drama of Sh. Hamad Al-Thani taking over his father Sh. Khalifa Al-Thani in 1995 is neither common nor acceptable in the Gulf traditions. All development activities in Qatar has been spurred on by the country’s well-liked Emir, Sh. Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, who ousted his father in a bloodless takeover in 1995. The fear of seeing what was done by Sh. Hamad as a model for other young crown princes in the Gulf was soon diminished with the strategy of building trust and showing great respect to the other older Gulf States’ leaders. Sh. Hamad was so brave and bold to move to the driving seat in such a controversial and traditional context. He clearly acknowledged the potential of his small yet very promising State.

Act Two: Investing in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
The second and important act is the vigorous move towards LNG industry. Despite all criticism from financial and development experts and mega media coverage like in MEED and Financial Times, billions of dollars were swiftly invested in LNG. Again, the calculated risk paid off. Qatar now is the third country after Russia and Iran in exporting LNG. A fact which tremendously facilitated pushing Qatar’s rank towards the top list of the richest countries on earth.

The previous two acts are suggesting a leadership with a clear vision and thorough understanding of his country’ strengths and liabilities.

The Vision, The Mission and The Adopted Strategies.
In this part I will clarify how Qatar is capturing the world’s imagination by doing an exceptional balance between global aspirations and local necessities. My account will cover three main strategies adopted by the country’s leaders to create a new sparkling pearl amid Gulf States. I will argue that observing government effort to boost the tiny Gulf Arab State’s credentials would reveal the integrity of these strategies and its harmonious interaction and overlaps.
1- Extended Global Investment Arm.
2- Political Credibility: A new Global Mediator.
3- Planning for Post-Carbon Future.

Branding Qatar via Doha’s Emerging Knowledge based Urbanism.
In the context of this paper, two main categories of architecture and urbanism will be analyzed as they represent main pillars for articulating the new urban brand; Dohaization. Knowledge-based Urban Development (KBUD) is the first category. Then the balanced combination between local and clobal urbanism is the second.

1-Knowledge-based Urban Development (KBUD)
2- Local and Global Urbanism.

Final Examination:
Dreams, Illusions or Legitimate Aspirations.
The claim of constructing such a knowledge based urban development where culture, education and creativity are shaping the city making process in Doha will be critically examined via the rigorous analysis of major projects. Qatar, considering the paramount importance of its culture and identity, is not aiming at arriving at the status of Dubai-rather maintaining an economic boom without compromising its own culture. Qatar acknowledged culture as a main catalyst for a new era of development. Knowledge based society as Qatar national vision suggests, considers culture as a crucial asset that should be preserved. Hence, reinforcing culture and identity in Qatar either through educational means, the government emphasizes the importance to embrace Qatari culture and identity, ensuring that development will not have a negative impact on culture and social norms. Looking at the major measures taken by the government, Qatar’s path looks optimistic in terms of ensuring that economic development will not compromise its culture. With an unprecedented financial resources and political commitment, Qatar is constructing a new brand which would be disseminated within the Gulf and the Middle East. Dohaization is a brand but also a continuous dynamic process.
Keywords: Doha, Gulf Cities, Knowledge and Creative Cities, Gulf Urbanity, Knowledge-based Urban Development.

Workshop Selected Theme:
3. Modernity and master planning on sand dunes
• Sand and fantasy: artificial coastlines and expanded oases
• Reconnaissance planning
• Westernization vs. modernization: the dilemma of emerging Gulf cities

Selected Bibliography
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Davidson, Christopher M. 2008. Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success. N.Y.: Colombia University Press.
Dinnie, Keith . 2011. City Branding: Theory and Cases. Palgrave Macmillan.
Florida, Richard. 2008. who’s Your City? Basic Books: New York.
Florida, R., Franke, S. and E. Verhagen 2006. Creativity and the City: How the Creative Economy is Changing the City. Rotterdam, NL: NAI Publishers.
Govers, Robert and Go, Frank. 2009. Place Branding: Glocal, Virtual and Physical Identities, Constructed, Imagined and Experienced. Palgrave Macmillan.
Landry, Charles and Wood, Phil (Eds.). 2007, The Intercultural City: Planning for Diversity Advantage. Earthscan Publications Ltd, London.
Landry, C. 2006. The art of city making. London: Earthscan Publications Ltd
Richer, Renee. 2009. Conservation in Qatar: Impacts of Increasing Industrialization. Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS), Georgetown University, Qatar.
UN-Habitat. 2009. Cultural Diversity in Cities.