Earthshots: Satellite Images of Environmental Change

You are here

» Doha, Qatar

Doha, the capital of Qatar, used to be a small fishing and pearl diving village. It’s now Qatar’s largest city with skyscrapers and a fast-growing urban area. Doha is investing heavily in education, culture, and sports. The vast majority of Qatar’s population lives in metropolitan Doha.

Oil was discovered in Qatar in 1937, and development began after World War II. Modern urbanization soon followed, and the country now has the highest per capita income in the world.

After winning the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Doha has a new motivation to develop its infrastructure. The Qatar government is investing in new stadiums and improved public transportation systems.

Map of the featured area.

This image series reveals more details about the expansion of Doha’s road network. Roads are arranged concentrically around the old city’s center. Low-rise urban development expands outward from that center, connected by new ring roads and large freeways.

In the 1950s, the population of Doha was around 14,000. Increasing oil revenues enabled Qatar to expand economically, resulting in dramatic urban expansion of its capital. The price of oil rose in the 1970s and 1980s, and Doha’s growth increased along with it. Doha grew from around 500,000 people in the late 1990s to 1.5 million in 2011. The city's 2018 estimated population is around 1.7 million.

After the turn of the 21st century, Doha’s growth involved adding land area. The amount of coastline increased greatly after 2001 with the additions of the new airport and the high-end residences and businesses of the Pearl-Qatar.

Construction started on Hamad International Airport (HIA) in 2004 with a huge land reclamation project. Sand from the seabed was used to build new land off the coast. More than half of the area of the new airport is on 28 square kilometers of reclaimed land.

The new airport’s two runways are 4,850 meters and 4,250 meters long. They were designed to accommodate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger jet.

The first flights at HIA began in 2014. The new airport replaces the old Doha International Airport, located just west of the new airport. HIA is 12 times the size of the old airport. Indeed, its presence now dominates the Landsat images of Doha.

The Pearl-Qatar is 32 kilometers of new coastline extending into the Persian Gulf. It is so named because Doha began as a pearl fishing village in the 1800s. The Pearl-Qatar is built on one of the country’s historical pearl diving sites.

Construction of the Pearl-Qatar began in 2004. Once completed, it will contain over 19,000 residences that will include townhouses, luxury apartments, beachfront homes, luxury hotels, shopping, fine dining, marinas, and entertainment.

The string of nine artificial islands to the east is called Isola Dana. These private islands each have a personal beach and protected harbor for yachts. Based on the 2019 image, it appears that so far four of these islands have been developed.


Have a question or comment? Please contact us at