Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'd like to buy that

By Alexandra Moe

Qatar's man-made island, The Pearl, is roughly 1,000 acres of conspicuous consumption.

Stretching out from the shore of the capital, its entrance is flanked by a circle of tall, ornate apartment buildings enclosing an azure bay. That leads to a showcase of the tastes of the wealthy: multimillion-dollar yachts moored leisurely along a boardwalk, accompanied by a parade of stores offering haute couture, such as cashmere Italian suits ready for bespoke tailoring, and two car dealerships, one for Ferrari and one for Rolls Royce.

A mini-city comprised of elements of Las Vegas and Venice, the island's developers boast it will add almost 20 miles of coastline to the tiny Gulf county, and have 15,000 homes by next year. 

We visited the island's first phase of development, the Porto Arabia section. Advertisements surrounded us at every angle. Billboards of happy Caucasian couples with the words, “I’d like to buy that,” and “Fascinating,” dominated the few billboards with Arab couples.

It was evident that these ads were focused on luring foreigners not Qataris to come live at The Pearl. Since 2006, investor advisor Ahmad Q. Masri said that people from over 40 different nationalities have purchased the flats, villas, and private islands available on the luxury island. 

It was my impression, though, that the United Development Company that created The Pearl would not care at all if any Qataris lived on the island. 

Its plans include only one mosque on the island for a possible population of 45,000 people, a portion of its beaches for nudists, and the pervasive promotion of a materialistic lifestyle; things that are all far from my idea of the Muslim lifestyle currently existing in Doha. 

The people who will be living throughout this Westernized area are going to have no appreciation for the culture of Doha. The area is something I would expect to be built in America: an area to show one’s wealth and hide away from reality. 

It was no surprise to me that the Qataris who took the tour of The Pearl with us were super critical and showed signs of disapproval towards this new settlement.

Photos: Jillian Sloan

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