Pablo Munini tells us what football fans who only go to the stadiums to encourage the teams that participate in the World Cup do not see.
I landed in Doha at 11:30 pm on a Friday after a 6-hour flight from Kazakhstan, and the radical difference between the two countries only deepened my initial impressions of the city.
And though the Doha international airport is the crossroads for many passengers to various destinations, it took only a few minutes to complete the immigration process, and when I arrived at baggage claim my bag was already waiting for me.
Outside, the orderly taxi drivers awaited arriving passengers. At that point the airport air conditioning I had paid little attention to before abruptly ended, and the oppressive heat hit me at 40° C (104° F). This famous heat, I would learn, lingers deep into the Qatari night.
In just 50 years, the emirate of Qatar has gone from being an inhospitable dry ground whose inhabitants were nomads, fishermen and small-scale pearl merchants to becoming the country with the highest per capita income on the planet.
A desert of fine white sand flows to an emerald sea upon which traditional Dhow boats float along one of the most modern and spectacular horizons in the world. This is how Doha, the capital of Qatar, could be defined in a single sentence.
One of Doha's most iconic attractions is the Corniche, a magnificent seven-kilometer promenade overlooking the calm waters of Doha Bay. Crescent-shaped, the Corniche circles Doha Bay and offers the best views of the modern city's skyline.
The architecture of the city is so perfect and futuristic in aspect that when illuminated at night, it makes one feel one is walking inside a giant model of a city of the future.
In the context of this spectacular modernist setting, on Wadi Musheireb street I found the Souq Waqif marketplace, where I entered to find a store selling the traditional dress worn by Qatari men, the “thobe”, consisting of a long white cotton tunic over a shirt and pants of the same color.
The merchants I bought from were pleased with the transaction, and so over a coffee together we got lost in a long conversation about football, Qatar, and the world.
With its clay-walled buildings, Souq Waqif is a shopping center that evokes a bygone era that needs to be preserved. Its winding alleys provide a classic picture of traditional street life in the Arab world as we often imagine it.
My tour of Doha continued on to the new neighborhoods of the capital, such as The Pearl-Qatar island, inspired by the form of a shell, with an inner dock and a Venetian-style neighborhood ending in the emblematic 211-meter-high Katara Towers in Lusail.
Two months ago I visited a Qatar that was in the middle of incessantly working all day and night to shine before the world for the World Cup it is hosting, and which begins now.
Back then I witnessed a Qatar rushing headlong into the future, without abandoning the lovely vestiges of its past.
Qatar is the seduction of the ancient East and the modern West, where vastly different souls come together in a magic place.
The desert and the sea also come together in Qatar, everything flowing with unstoppable force towards an avant-garde future.