Located smack in the center of the Middle East, Qatar is a small independent nation covered entirely by desert—a place where temperatures climb easily into the triple digits in summer and where 14% of the local population are millionaires.
In less than a century, Qatar went from poor UK colony with a dwindling fishing industry to independent nation with booming infrastructural development and radically improved lifestyle. The country turned earnings from oil and gas trade into building the modern capital city of Doha. It also formed a sovereign wealth fund to strategically invest in fortunes across the globe and in diversified sectors—from tech companies like Uber to stakes in properties like the top 15 skyscrapers in London (34% ownership), St. Petersburg Airport (25%) and the Empire State Building (10% ).
Today the Qatar Investment Authority is worth more than $335 billion, a portion of which is channeled back into the country and into Doha to build more highways, a metro system, universities, an I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art and, of course, shiny skyscrapers. But it’s not all good news out of this desert metropolis, where millions of migrant workers are earning a pittance and living in makeshift camps. In response to international pressure, Qatar is in the process of labor reforms.
By the time it hosts the World Cup in 2022, Doha will offer a dynamic mix of traditional souqs, iconic landmarks, ritzy shopping malls and five-star hotels to rival those in neighboring Dubai. Qatar has its sights set on becoming the next tourism hotspot in the Middle East. And it has the means to do it.