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Qatar is on a roll. The capital, Doha, has an ever-changing skyline that will be put it on a construction par with Abu Dhabi and Dubai before the decade is over, and new hotels are being built to accommodate an expected ever-increasing influx of business travellers and tourists.
The Pearl-Qatar will be the jewel in the crown, an upscale residential and leisure facility that will become the country's main icon (see box). Across the board, more residential compounds and blocks of flats are being constructed to house the growing local and expatriate population, and Asian Games, which come to Doha in 2006.
Qatar Airways plans to serve 70 destinations by the end of 2005 and have a fleet of 52 Airbus aircraft by 2008. When completed in 2015, the new Doha International airport will be able to handle around 50 million passengers a year.
So what do the residents and visitors think of this fast-progressing country? Is Qatar coping with the rapid changes and what is it like to live and work in this small but enterprising Gulf state?
John Dearden, civil engineer from the UK Due to the slump in the job market in the early 1980s back home, John came to Qatar for an initial two-year contract--and is still here, 23 years later. What is it that makes Qatar so attractive to expats? "The work here is challenging," he says. "Also, I hate the weather in the UK. People moan here, but the climate really is great all year round, if you ignore June, July and August."
Having seen incredible changes in the past two decades, he finds all aspects of life in Qatar have changed.
"When I first arrived, expatriate workers were offered tempting packages, all they virtually had to pay for was food. Nowadays, the companies don't want the hassle anymore, and leave you to sort yourself out."
The social scene has also changed beyond all recognition.
"Back in the early 80s, there were so few expats here, you felt that you knew everybody. We had to make our own entertainment; there were no cinemas, hotels, and only one club. People socialised in each other's houses and had large camping expeditions. Now we have so much on offer that the personal contacts are not as strong anymore."
The civil engineer has no plans of returning back home.
"I have been an expat for too long to be able to handle the bad weather and paying taxes. The daily commuting would drive me mad. Although here in Qatar I work some 48 hours plus each week, I am home within 10 minutes. A 35 hour-week, coupled with two hours commuting everyday, is no real …