In mid 2010 the Monkey visited The Pearl, a giant man-made island and real estate development project that aims to create an Arabian Riviera near the heart of the Qatari capital.
The Monkey wasn’t sure what to make of The Pearl. The development is a huge project based on land reclamation from the sea, creating 400 hectares of artificial islands that house villas, high-rise apartments, the requisite five-star hotels, high-end shops, gourmet restaurants, and sandy beaches for a projected 41,000 residents. The Pearl’s name alludes to Qatar’s pearling past, but is also an obvious nod to luxury. In the words of the project developers, the United Development Company:
The Pearl-Qatar is a secure, family oriented environment, like no other destination in the Middle East. On par with the best of the Mediterranean, it has become the Arabian Riviera (Riviera Arabia) by offering a lifestyle reminiscent of France and Italy in the heart of the Arabian Gulf.
Of course, the Monkey was in town on a Friday morning (the day of prayer), which meant there were very few people out and about. He had a look at the first phase of the project, the Porto Arabia. It is a giant horseshoe of a harbor open to the sea at one end, and ringed by high-rise apartment blocks, marina slips, and a boardwalk lined by shops and restaurants.
In the center of the Porto Arabia harbor is a smaller circular island linked by a footbridge, upon which the Monkey is posing here. In the distance are several more of the apartment blocks that hem the harbor.
On the boardwalk of the Porto Arabia area of The Pearl, the Monkey had to take a seat to recover from the heat. Behind him are some of the boutiques selling the placeless brands one associates with airport duty-free and ambiguous ads in glossy magazines. A small cafe was a more welcome sight, but it was closed that morning.
The Monkey inspects some of the intricate grill work of a railing at The Pearl. While the development’s primary source domain is cited as European Mediterranean, it does incorporate some Arabian and Islamic motifs which add local flavor.
Another view of the Porto Arabia area of The Pearl in Doha, Qatar. The waters in which these man-made islands have been built were previously a pearl-hunting area. Pearls were once a mainstay of the Qatari economy, but they’ve since been superseded by the country’s attempt to become a service sector leader in the Gulf region. In a sense, the fact that The Pearl is built atop old pearl beds symbolizes this transition.
Since these photos only dent the surface of this development, the Monkey has included this satellite image from Google Maps depicting the overall scale:
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