When I told my family that I was taking a yearlong remote job in Qatar, they all thought I was heading into a war zone. While its neighbor Bahrain may have started the Arab Spring, Qatar is very much a growing and fostering country. To put a better perspective on things, you need to look at Doha as if Singapore had moved to the desert. Most of the population is a mix of Filipino, Arab, Indian, Western expats and Bangladeshi. The amount of foreign nationals are so great that the native Qatari people appear to be the minority in their own country. Having that in mind will give you a feel for how the city lives and breathes.
As an AV guy living in one of the richest countries in the world, one would expect that there is nothing but big screens and a digital playgrounds all around. At least that is what I would have thought based on my perception of Doha’s “gulf cousin” Dubai. Both are expanding their city skylines and prepping for bigger and better things. However in Doha’s case, there is still a bit of groundwork to be done.
In terms of displays, digital signage and use of technology: Look towards the malls. In Doha there are two major malls that seem to draw the fine citizens by the droves. In both cases, if there is a large emphasis on service. The Qtel stores are all lined with commercial grade Samsun Samsung and NEC Displays in 3×3 video walls… of course they should be. Qtel is the government run phone company. The only other service provider is Vodafone, whose coverage makes Sprint seem far and wide. But it is the Qatari government is spending all the money to push for 4G coverage and updated technology in the city. Along with the 4G implementation, the push for digital displays and modern AV are also coming from the government. In fact one of the best examples of their push into the digital age, and a site to see, is the Aspire Tower. The entire tower is a hotel that is lined with large-scale LED panels, turning the tower itself into a 360 degree electronic sign. The topper is that during Ramadan, the tower transforms into a digital torch, with an active flame coming from the top of the tower. The entire area is in a state of preparation for the future, but it is tempered with a mindset from the 90′s. It’s an Ironic mix of high-tech coupled with Zack Morris Cell phones. Still you can feel the buzz in the air of whats to come. And for all the better reason in that they are hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Already I have seen the beginnings of the infrastructure updates and the birth new stadiums to support this landmark event. This will be the first time a country in the Middle East will host the World Cup.
There are a number of things that this AV tech From Jersey has to get used to. The movie theaters do not have Fandango or online reservations. But when you get your tickets you do reserve you seats in the theater. Belive it or not there are things like IMAX and 3D movies out here, however because of Sharia law most movies are heavily edited for content. In a way I’d be amazed if any Tarentino films will ever make a profit out here after being edited. Technology aside there are a few thing that I miss from home. Simple pleasures such as the local newsstand, a real 24 hour diner, local theater shows and cookouts with neighbors. It’s the little things, like bacon cheeseburgers, that seem to matter most when you’re a stranger in a strange land.
Until next time,