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  • Writer's pictureAndre Watson

Doha’s Skyline Takes Center Stage as World Cup Kicks Off in Qatar

Tiny Persian Gulf Nation Showcases Unique Stadium Designs at Global Soccer Tournament

Qatar’s capital city, Doha, is hosting the World Cup this year. (FIFA via Getty Images)

The world’s eyes have turned to Qatar, a Persian Gulf country with less than 3 million residents, now that the World Cup is underway.

Matches in the once-every-four-years soccer tournament are being held in an eclectic mix of stadiums, with a skyline in flux as the backdrop. About 1.5 million fans — more than half the population of Qatar — are expected in Doha, the capital city, according to media reports.

Real estate and architecture aficionados watching the tournament will catch glimpses of Doha’s eye-catching high-rises, which belie the country’s small size. The row of towers visible from the gulf could have been more spectacular, if not for high-profile developments that never came to fruition.

Here is more about Qatar’s buildings:


Qatar’s eight stadiums include a wide range of designs, including the Al Bayt Stadium inspired by the tents of the Bedouin, a nomadic Arab tribe. It is in Al Khor.

A temporary venue in Doha’s waterfront Ras Abu Aboud district is made from 974 recycled shipping containers. The stadium is to be dismantled after the tournament.

The retractable-roof Al Janoub Stadium in the Al Wakrah district of Doha is designed to resemble the sail of a dhow, a type of shipping boat frequently seen in the city’s harbor.

Lusail Iconic Stadium, with its 80,000 seats, will host the Dec. 18 final. The gold-colored venue was designed to resemble a handcrafted bowl such as those found throughout the Middle East.

The stadiums will include air conditioning to guard against the nation's extreme heat.

New City

Lusail Iconic Stadium is part of a new coastal city rising just north of Doha.

Foster + Partners designed Qatar’s largest World Cup stadium as well as a master plan for a new central business district.

In Lusail, a neighboring city of the capital, Doha, two Foster + Partners projects, Lusail Towers, center, and Lusail Iconic Stadium, back right, have sprung up. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Katara Towers, designed to represent scimitar swords from the national seal of Qatar, is located in the coastal city of Lusail. (Getty Images)

Under construction near the stadium are four aluminum-clad buildings — two rising 50 stories, the other two 70 stories — around a central plaza.

Lusail Towers will serve as headquarters for organizations including the Qatar National Bank, Qatar Central Bank and Qatar Investment Authority, according to the London-based architecture firm’s website.

The taller two towers will be the highest in Qatar at 986 feet each, 2 feet above the existing Aspire Tower.

The project is near another distinctive mark on the skyline, Katara Towers, which features curves designed to represent scimitar swords from the national seal of Qatar.

Human Cost

FIFA’s selection of the Middle Eastern country as host of the World Cup was controversial because of Qatar’s human-rights record as well as its small size, lack of global soccer pedigree and extreme heat.

There were 6,500 deaths of migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who died between 2010, when Qatar was awarded the tournament, and 2021, according to a report by The Guardian. It is not known exactly how many of the deaths were directly related to World Cup projects, but many of the workers came to the country to work on stadiums and other infrastructure related to the event, according to the report.

Qatar has spent $200 billion preparing for the World Cup, compared with around $11 billion spent by Russia leading up to 2018, the report said.

Notable Buildings

Doha Tower is one of the most recognizable towers on the Doha Corniche, a promenade that runs along the gulf. It is Qatar’s sixth-tallest skyscraper at 781 feet, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Doha Tower is one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Qatar’s capital city. (Getty Images)

Completed in 2012, it was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The tower, topped by a dome and spire, is reminiscent of the Torre Glories tower Nouvel previously designed in Barcelona.

Until Lusail Towers’ completion, Qatar’s tallest tower will remain the 984-foot Aspire Tower.

Also known as The Torch Doha, it reportedly was built in just 17 months, with the top holding the flame for the 2006 Asian Games. It also has a hotel, museum, revolving restaurant on the 47th floor, and swimming pool cantilevered 100 meters above ground.

Aspire Tower’s cladding includes LED luminaries, standing out with bright colors at night.

Qatar’s Aspire Tower, said to be built in just 17 months, held the flame at the top for the 2006 Asian Games. (Getty Images)

Towering Failures

The tallest building ever planned in Qatar was Doha Convention Center Tower, a 112-story, 1,808-foot-tall design by Helmut Jahn.

The project was halted before breaking ground because of concerns that it would disrupt flights coming in and out of Doha’s international airport, Arabian Business reported in 2012.

Although a new international airport has since opened, the project never resumed. If it had been built, it would be taller than all but five skyscrapers in the world today.

The low-rise convention center planned as part of the project, also designed by the late Jahn in collaboration with Werner Sobek, opened in 2015.

Another tower that could have been Qatar’s tallest, the 1,432-foot Dubai Towers Doha, went under construction in 2007 but was paused during the global financial crisis that soon followed. Work never picked up again on the partially built tower, which was to have included hotel, office and residential space.

The Doha Corniche is a promenade with tall buildings along the Persian Gulf. (Getty Images)

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