Doha Journal: City speeds up hotel, stadium and metro construction in time for 2022 World Cup

Doha skyline continues to impress visitors with savvy architecture for new hotels, office towers and cultural attractions.

By Ron Bernthal With a winning bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and a national objective to diversify its economy, Qatar has been gearing up for an expansion of its tourism industry with investments being channeled into the construction of new hotels, malls, conference centers, cultural attractions, and a brand new Metro system. . In addition to the above listed projects, Qatar is building six (and renovating two) World Cup-quality soccer stadiums in Doha, Qatar’s capital,  and four nearby cities. All the stadiums are within a 35- mile radius from  Doha, which will make it incredibly convenient for fans. Unlike past World Cup tournaments, those attending the 2022 event can base themselves in one hotel and attend matches in any of the host  stadiums without having to fly between cities or take overnight trips. It’s a dream for spectators. Adding to the experience are the incredible soccer venues, all complete with cooling systems to combat the desert heat.

Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be one of the venues during Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 event Nov 21 – Dec 18 (rendering courtesy 2022 FIFA World Cup )

All of these new projects will be needed to satisfy the approximately one million visitors that will descend on Doha for World Cup 2022. If soccer fans are concerned that this small country, just 0.12% the size of the United States, may not be ready for prime time, just remember that Qatar’s profitable oil and natural gas exports make it the world’s richest country. Although Doha had its share of upscale hotels before winning the World Cup bid – think Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Millennium Plaza, Dusit Doha – and others, it was the 100,000 guest rooms that FIFA requires for cities to host a World Cup event that spurred the city’s current frenzy of hotel construction projects. The new competitors are pushing the envelope in terms of amenities, architecture, and culinary offerings, targeting not only 2022 World Cup visitors, but also the growth of international business travelers arriving at Doha’s Hamad International Airport, a group which is expected to increase in the years ahead. Some of hotel projects that opened in Doha in the past several years include the Mondrian Doha, which opened in 2017. Qatar has been interested in all genre’s of design in its commercial structures, and the Mondrian offers fantastical colors, shapes and a somewhat surreal atmosphere. Designed by noted Dutch product and interior designer Marcel Wanders, this lavish hotel tower features a 24K gold elevator, with 211-rooms and 59 suites designed in an opulent fashion. The hotel is home to two new restaurants run by internationally renowned chefs, the Morimoto Doha, with Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, and CUT by Wolfgang Puck. The hotel’s 27th-floor Rise Skybar offers stunning views of Pearl, West Bay and Lusail City, and a hand-painted glass dome.

Rise, on Mondrian Doha’s 27th floor, is modeled after the Mondrian LA’s Skybar. (photo Mondrian Doha)

One of Hilton’s most familiar brands opened in Qatar in 2019 when the DoubleTree by Hilton Doha-Al Sadd opened its doors to the public. The 139-room property welcomes guests to its location in the heart of the city’s commercial district. It will feature five dining venues, a health club with an outdoor pool, and a selection of meeting rooms.

King guestroom at DoubleTree by Hilton Doha-Al Sadd (image © 2020 Hilton)

Other Doha hotels appearing afterwards include the Staybridge Suites Doha Lusail; Mandarin Oriental; Four Points by Sheraton;  and the Park Hyatt Doha Hotel, among others.

Park Hyatt Doha opened in 2019. (photo courtesy Hyatt Hotels & Resorts)

In 2020 several additional hotels have opened, or plan to open, including The Vyra Suites NH Collection Doha, a property located in West Bay, Doha’s business district. The new-build, 44-story property offers 72 one-bedroom, 144 two-bedroom, and 12 three-bedroom apartments as well as a restaurant, coffee shop, fully equipped gym, indoor swimming pool, kids’ club, teens room, and a number of meeting rooms. The Plaza Doha Anantara Hotel & Suites is located in the Um Ghuwelina area of the city, with 292 rooms and about 15 minutes’ drive from Hamad International Airport. The venue will include multiple dining options and a fully air-conditioned courtyard atrium that is expected to be the centerpiece of the property. Other facilities will include a spa and wellness area, a rooftop infinity swimming pool, as well as an indoor pool, a fully equipped gym and a 12,00 square-foot ballroom along with six meeting rooms.Accor’s first Majlis Grand Mercure Hotel is due to start welcoming guests in late 2020. The 238-room hotel will be housed in a 41-story development and features extensive business, sports and leisure facilities, as well as nine food and beverage outlets.

Majlis Grand Mercure Hotel Doha (image courtesy ProTenders)

The Steigenberger Hotel Doha Airport Road is set to open with 204-rooms, including a number of suites and a royal suite. A 4,300 square-foot ballroom and six meeting facilities will attract both personal events as well as professional meetings. Guests can also enjoy a spa, gym and a roof top pool as well as various F&B facilities. One European-style restaurant, an international all-day dining restaurant with an open kitchen, a lobby lounge and a roof top health bar will be part of the F&B services.

Doha Steigenberger Hotel Doha Airport Road opened in 2020. (rendering courtesy Steigenberger Hotels)

The Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas and Zulal Wellness Resort, are scheduled to open late 2020 and early 2021, respectively.

The two new openings, Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas and Zulal Wellness Resort, will each bring something different to the broad range of amenities and experiences already available to domestic and international tourists.

His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Secretary General of Qatar National Tourism Council and CEO of Qatar Airways, said of the developments: “Throughout this year and in the run up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 TM, we are expanding our tourism offering to ensure guests can enjoy the very best in Qatari hospitality. Extensive hotel and resort development is key to our strategy, and we are pleased to have two outstanding developments underway, including our partnership with Hilton Hotels and Resorts with the Salwa Beach project.”

The seventh Hilton hotel opening in the region, the Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas, is located 50 miles from Doha. The resort is set across two miles of picturesque private beaches and features spacious beach villas, each with private pools and gardens. Thirty villas are now available for bookings, with a further 246 deluxe hotel rooms and suites due to open in early 2021.

Additional amenities include the locally inspired Souk Kitchen to the stylish Octa seafood restaurant, with over 20 other eateries on site with varied cuisine. 

Outside of Abu Samra, the Zulal Wellness Resort is set to be the largest wellness destination in the country, and the first wellbeing resort in the region. Partially opening in late 2020 before its complete opening in early 2021, the resort will be located in the north of Qatar and will offer treatments and facilities for families or couples looking to escape Doha for some time in the Arabian dunes.

A total of 15 hotels are slated to open in Doha in 2020, adding 3,490 rooms to the city’s inventory, and it is likely that most of these projects will open on time. Another 12 hotels are planned for 2021, bringing 3,540 additional rooms to the city. Most of the new properties are four- and five-star hotels, with Accor, Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide leading in the number of guest rooms in the pipeline.

The JW Marriott West Bay is expected to open in mid-2021, with 297-rooms within a towering 53-story skyscraper. A cantilevered swimming pool on the 30th floor will offer stunning views of the city and the Persian Gulf. In addition. there will be several food and beverage venus, state-of-the-art sports and wellness facilities, and perfect location on the Doha’s popular Corniche. Also debuting in 2021 will be Marriott’s latest addition to its Luxury Collection’s portfolio in the Middle East, the Al Messila, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa in an environment that promotes wellness and sustainability. Conveniently located just a 25-minute drive from the airport, and 15 minutes away from Doha’s histsoric oasis district.

Al Messila, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Doha. (image Marriott Hotels & Resorts)

The Al Messila property offers 152 rooms and suites, as well as 30 private villas, each of which has its own pool and garden area. The hotel complex includes eight fine dining venues which have been coordinated by Michelin Star chef Pino Lavarra. A spa and wellness center will have 26 treatment rooms, with space devoted for the use of female guests exclusively. The extravagant Katara Towers Lusail Marina District is now taking shape in the Lusail Marina District in Qatar. This soaring structure will not only house a five-star hotel, but also a luxurious six-star hotel as well. The new 36-story project will tower over the Lusail Marina District, taking the form of crossed swords as they appear on the Qatari seal. The concept was designed by the German firm King Consult, and is due to open in early 2021.

The mixed-use Katara Towers Lusail Marina District will consist of two towers, and include a 5-star and 6-star hotel property, numerous food and beverage venus, retail shoping and seaside amenities (image Katara Hospitality)

The Katara Towers will have direct access to one of the new man-made beaches, located on a satellite island right in front of the harbour, offering visitors food and drinks in one of the Marina District’s many food and beverage outlets. The Katara Towers Lusail Marina District will be a mixed-use development project housing a variety of venues and amenities, spread ovear the two towers and nearby smaller structures. Within Doha’s center and surrounding communities, ten new properties with a total of 3,855 rooms are scheduled to open in 2022 and beyond, not including the 16 temporary floating hotels that will open on the shores of Doha’s Qetaifan Island North in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The floating hotels project is just a 15-minute ride to Lusail Stadium, one of the World Cup venues.

View of temporary floating hotels by ADMARES that will house visitors during the 2022 World Cup in Doha. Rooms at the hotel can be booked online one year before the Nov 2022 event. (rendering courtesy ADMARES)

Constructed by ADMARES, an international firm with headquarters in Finland, the temporary hotels have a unique design – 236-feet long and 52-feet wide, each floating building will consist of 101 guest rooms, a restaurant and lounge bar, and all will be decorated in a clean, Scandinavian style, with shades of white and wood tones. All of the 16 four-story hotels will be identical, offering a total of 1,616 hotel rooms. Following the World Cup, there are plans for these floating hotels to be relocated to a permanent location in Qatar, though no details have yet been announced. The hotels do not have an official name yet — though the developers note that interested guests will be able to book the unique rooms one year out from the 2020 World Cup event. Visitors to Doha should be sure to visit the city’s historic “souq” marketplace, as well as several of the art galleries, museums, city restaurants and desert and Persian Gulf attractions that make Qatar a distinctive, safe and enjoyable destination. Admission to the permanent galleries at the Museum of Islamic Art is free, and indoor and outdoors cafes, a gift shop and IDAM, a world class restaurant run by Alain Ducasse, are also available to visitors. Onsite guides are also available to assist visitors.

Museum of Islamic Art Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect I M Pei (photo Ron Bernthal )

A four-mile long waterfront promenade stretches for the entire length of Doha Bay, the Corniche offers views of the city and the sea, as well as public artworks. The Corniche offers a vehicle-free pedestrian space in the heart of the city, with cafes, restaurants, and a running track, often used by locals and visitors in the early morning hours, before it becomes too hot.

Doha’s four-mile long waterfront promenade offers public art and views of the sea and city skyline (photo Ron Bernthal)

Visit the busy alleys of Souq Waqif, which provides an interesting taste of Doha’s traditional shops, art galleries, architecture and culture. The maze of small shops offer a dazzling array of Middle Eastern products, from spices and seasonal delicacies such as fresh dates and nuts, to hand-made jewellery, clothing, and local crafts. Traditional Qatari cuisine can be found at Souq Waqif, as well as at nearby hotels and in excellent fish restaurants near the sea. Winter nights can be quite cool in Qatar, but during the long summer, visitors are advised to browse Souq Waqif in the evening, when the heat is less intense and families are out and about under colorful strings of lights and a star-filled sky.

Grilled fresh fish and seafood is always available at many Qatari restaurants.  Waiters and shop workers are friendly and helpful to visitors navigating their way through Doha and other areas. . (photo Ron Bernthal)

The Katara Cultural Village is the largest and the most multidimensional cultural project of Qatar. It is a place where people, both Qatari’s and visitors, come together to experience the cultures of the world. With beautiful theaters, concert halls, exhibition galleries and cutting-edge facilities, Katara has become a world leader for multi-cultural activities.

Katara Cultural Village on a rare, rainy night in Doha. Qatar averages just three inches of rain per year. (photo Alex Serseev)

Doha Mall, a $450 million project, opened its door in February 2020. Located at Abu Hamour, the only super-regional mall in the southern part of Doha, it is hoping to fulfil consumers’ growing appetite for fashion, new age entertainment and new restaurant choices. At the intersection of F-Ring Road and Wholesale Market Street and 10 minutes from Hamad International Airport,” Rony Mourani, general manager of Al Mana Malls told a press conference. “One of the Qatar Rail Metro stations can be easily accessed within the mall vicinity,” said Rony Mourani, general manager of Al Mana Malls. “We also plan to have shuttle bus service to leading hotels so that tourists can access the mall at their convenience. We expect Doha Mall to host over one million visitors each month, owing to its location and other features”

The multimillion-dollar Doha Mall opened in February, 2020, one of Doha’s largest retail projects. (rendering courtesy Al Mana Malls)

Doha Mall is home to more than 250 retail stores, with over 14 anchor stores, a new FLiK Cinemas concept, 10 cinema screens, world-class bowling center, high-tech family entertainment centre, a trampoline and adventure park for children, and a wide range of dining options with more than 60 food and beverage venues. Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) has been voted the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ for the sixth year in a row and ‘Best Staff Service in the Middle East’ for the fifth year in a row. HIA also continues to retain its five-star airport classification since 2017. It is also rated as the ‘world’s fastest growing airport’. During 2019, the airport served a record 38,786,422 passengers, the most since the start of its operations in 2014. “Every year that we move up the ranks is particularly rewarding as this honor comes directly from our passengers who have shared their experiences travelling through our airport through SKYTRAX surveys,” said Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer at Hamad International Airport. “Despite all the challenges that the aviation sector faces today, we are committed to our primary role of helping travelers reach their home countries safely.”

Doha’s modern Hamad International Airport has received top ratings in many airport categories since it began operations in 2014. (photo courtesy Hamad Internationjal Airport)

HIA commenced its recent airport expansion project in early 2020. Phase A of the expansion will increase HIA’s capacity to more than 53 million passengers annually by 2022. Phase B which will increase the airport’s capacity to more than 60 million passengers annually. Designed to seamlessly integrate with the existing terminal, the expansion will also target to be a LEED Silver certified energy efficient building. The tropical indoor garden and water feature will allow passengers to benefit from the calming effects of nature, and its award-winning Al Safwa First Class Lounge and the Al Mourjan Business Lounge offer some of the best lounge amenities in the world.

Doha Metro Msheireb Station (image © Hufton+Crow)

A new metro network for Doha, designed by the Dutch architecture firm UNStudio, working with the  Ministry of Railway Construction of Qatar, established the vision of creating a new Doha metro network that is expected to help the city with its addiction to private cars, and make travelling both more streamlined and cleaner in terms of carbon emissions.  Visitors will enjoy the speed and efficiency of the system, and the modern stations and trains, but wealthy locals will find it difficult to shun their Mercedes, Porsche’s, and Maserati’s for public transportation.  .

Doha Metro DECC Station (image © Hufton+Crow)

Qatar Rail opened Doha’s first-ever metro network in 2019, having enlisted UNStudio to work on the concept design and branding. Construction started in 2013, and when the first three lines of the Doha Metro Network opened in 2019, it created one of the most advanced and fastest driverless metro systems in the world, capable of reaching speeds of 60 mph. . The Doha Metro Network serves both the capital and the suburbs with all major locations within easy reach. Most of the Doha Metro lines are underground, so tunneling played a major role in the construction, which means that there is very little disruption to street life above ground. .The Red, Gold and Green lines are now complete, with 37 stations and a length of about 45 miles. The Blue line is expected to open in 2025, and with expansion of the existing lines, an additional 60 stations will be completed by 2026.

Partial map of Doha Railway Metro System (Image © Qatar Railways Company/designed by UNStudio)

Stations play an important part, practically and culturally, of any metro system, especially in Qatar.. Architecturally, the stations reflect the heritage of the country, with a ‘vaulted spaces’ design plan inspired by traditional Bedouin tents. The largest station, Msheireb, will be the heart of the Doha Metro with the Red, Green and Gold lines all meeting at this point. “We set up a unique series of “elements” that you could use, mix and match, mirror and reposition in order to make a variety of stations shapes and sizes,” said UNStudio co-founder Ben van Berkel. “There’s a manual with everything in there, from construction details, to how materials and light in the station needs to be placed, how wayfinding becomes part of the system, so every architect and subcontractor who is called to work on a station in the future can use it and create from this manual.”

“The station designs by UNStudio include swooping curves and defining geometries. ‘We have a fascination for complex geometries and we knew that only with a few key, carefully designed elements you can make many variants but also keep the identity of the stations similar,  that’s part of what the client had asked for,” said van Berkel.

Doha Metro Al Riffa Station (Image © Hufton+Crow)

This new Metro project is also a component of creating new public spaces in the city. The Doha Metro Network, “should be a space for social interaction, exercise and encounters, as much as a valuable bit of infrastructure:”  Encouraging people to leave their cars behind, walk more and meet, was important, and having retail spaces in the bigger stations will help support the expected interest among locals and visitors. .

“This project will make Doha a metropolitan city,” said van Berkel. “‘I like the idea that the Doha Metro Network will generate an enormous amount of activity. It is made for the city first, but also ease transit between stadiums, hotels and attractions during the upcoming World Cup.”

UNStudio has designed eye-catching and easily recognizable subway station signs at busy road intersections, always reminding people that there are more efficient means of transportation that can replace private transportation. The extensive geographical coverage of the subway network makes the transportation in Doha more comfortable and convenient. At the same time, the new subway line network also sets up safe passages across busy road intersections on the ground to provide safe and convenient services for passengers and ordinary pedestrians.

Doha Metro Msheireb Station entrance (Image © Hufton+Crow)

Ben van Berkel said “In the future, our way of travel around the city will be very different. The methods of travel will change very quickly, from electric cars to city cable cars to super high-speed rail. The future transportation hub must respond to and adapt to these changes. In order to encourage people to use For more sustainable transportation, these stations must not only ensure the smooth flow of passengers, but also need to be truly attractive to the public. Make them places that people want to visit and are happy to go to and from.”

Doha Metro’s state-of-the art design contributes to greener journeys and supports the nation’s development in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030.

The metro runs paperless tickets and works regularly with partners to support and promote environmental initiatives in Qatar, in addition to reducing in the number of journeys made by road, reducing carbon emissions.

Doha Metro is the backbone of Qatar’s integrated public transport system, promoting the use of public transport in the country, and serves as a key contributor in the accomplishment of the Qatar National Vision 2030.