From culture, economic growth and diplomacy to sports, Sheikh Tamim’s leadership has developed Qatar into a platform for dialogue and cultural exchange.
It has been a decade since Qatar’s Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani handed over the country’s leadership to Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, marking the beginning of a transformative chapter in the Gulf state’s history.
During his inaugural speech on 26 June, 2013, Sheikh Tamim promised to build on the accomplishments of his father and former leader, Sheikh Hamad, from advancing the economy, developing the health sector and sports field, among other key institutions.
Over the past decade, Qatar has undergone paramount transformations whilst standing up to major challenges, from the 2017 blockade to the hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup as the first Arab, Muslim country to do so.
Since 2013, Qatar’s perseverance, sovereignty and commitment to its deep-rooted cultural values have been exhibited both domestically and internationally.
Speaking to Doha News, Shaikha Al-Marri, former youth advisor for the Ministry of Sports and Youth in Qatar, described the past 10 years as a “new journey” for her home country.
“Qatar, under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, embarked on a new journey of economic, social, cultural, and sporting development in various fields, until the country’s name was cited in all international forums as a model of growth and development,” Al-Marri told Doha News.
Domestically, the Gulf state has witnessed key milestones, starting with the official opening of the Hamad International Airport in 2014, which has continuously dominated rankings as one of the best airports in the world, since.
The airport’s mega expansion in 2022 just in time for the FIFA World Cup, provided a comfortable travel experience for an influx of visitors who headed to the Gulf state for the tournament.
With the aim of expanding and strengthening Qatar’s trade relations, the amir inaugurated the state-of-the-art Hamad Port in 2016, the world’s largest “greenfield” port-development project.
Later in 2019, the Doha Metro opened to the public, marking a key accomplishment in the Qatar’s National 2030 goals in developing the transportation sector.
As one of the world’s fastest and driverless trains, the Doha Metro served millions of fans throughout the World Cup, providing a seamless transportation experience across the country.
In the backdrop of these developments, the Gulf state was being subjected to an illegal air, land and sea blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt from 2017.
The embargo came at a time when Qatar relied heavily on food imports, leading to countries such as Turkiye to send shipments of their products to keep local shelves in Doha stocked.
However, the Gulf nation rapidly stood up to the challenge by increasing its dairy and poultry production, developing local brands and boosting its domestic agriculture. By 2019, Qatar proudly had achieved 100% self-sufficiency in food production.
Qatar was also recognised globally for its response to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, a time where the world found itself in fight or flight mode as it navigated through the newly-discovered disease.
The Gulf country earned global praise by various entities including the World Health Organisation (WHO), for its local efforts in mitigating the virus’s spread, maintaining one of the world’s lowest Covid-19 mortality rates and one of the highest vaccination rates once the vaccines became available.
Health aside, Qatar achieved another domestic milestone by holding the first ever Shura Council elections in 2021, where eligible Qatari citizens elected 30 candidates out of the legislative body’s 45 members.
The elections marked a historic moment for the Gulf state and was described by many as a major step towards democracy as the polls saw a voter turnout of 63.5% across 30 districts.
In seeking to meet the country’s plan to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change, Qatar’s amir inaugurated the Al Kharsaah Solar Power Plant in 2020, the largest in the region.
Covering an area of 10 square kilometers, the power plant is set to meet 10% of Qatar’s peak electricity demand by using more than 1,800,000 solar panels.
From the blockade to the Covid-19 outbreak, Qatar’s resilient economy under Sheikh Tamim’s leadership powered through all the challenges, achieving one of the region’s highest economic growth rates.
When Qatar was hit with the embargo in 2017, it managed to pump an approximate $43 billion into banks. Similarly during the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020, Qatar announced a financial package of $23 billion (QAR 75 billion) as a booster for the private sector.
Over the past decade, Qatar became widely dubbed as a safe haven for foreign direct investment (FDI), recording a 70% annual growth of FDI between 2019 and 2022 alone. Much of the progress related to FDI was led by the introduction of policies that provided a better climate for investors.
The World Cup itself provided major contributions to Qatar’s economy, which helped achieve a 32% nominal gross domestic product (GDP) growth during 2022 alone. The Gulf state also maintained one of the world’s lowest inflation rates with forecasts expecting it to remain below 3.3% this year.
With regards to energy, Qatar’s economy witnessed the beginning of a new chapter in the gas sector with the announcement of the mega North Field Expansion Project, the largest of its kind in the industry, in 2017.
The $28.75 project is set to further position Qatar as a leading exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG), with the first phase of the project expected to ramp up production from 77 million tonnes to 110 million tonnes by 2025, representing a 43% increase.
The second phase of the project will then increase Qatar’s LNG production to 126 million tonnes by 2027.
Qatar’s position in the LNG industry has placed it under the spotlight since amid the global energy crisis, that was exacerbated by the compounded effects of the Covid-19 outbreak and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Numerous European countries reached out to Doha in a bid to secure their energy supply as they moved towards ditching their reliance on Russian gas while diversifying their LNG sources.
Qatar’s remarkable growth over the past decade transcended its geographical borders and size, in championing diplomacy through various mediation efforts and conflict resolution.
The Gulf state has repeatedly earned praise for being a rational voice in times of international and regional crisis.
For example, Qatar was able to bring together the United States and the Taliban in 2020 following 20 deadly years of war in Afghanistan.
The negotiations in the Gulf state led to the signing of the Doha Agreement between US and Taliban, with both sides shaking hands in a historic image.
During the same year, Qatar held the intra-Afghan talks in addition to negotiations in 2021, just days ahead of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. Even then, Doha’s efforts continued, assuming a more pivotal role by carrying out history’s largest airlift of people.
At the time, the Gulf state managed to safely evacuate more than 100,000 Afghans and foreigners, playing a crucial role that further cemented its position as a reliable international partner to western powers.
In recognition of its efforts, the US designated Qatar in 2022 as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA).
Qatar also led a major role in the Kenya and Somalia reconciliation in 2021, following a dispute that saw the latter accuse Nairobi of interfering in its internal affairs.
In another diplomatic success, Qatar led mediation efforts between at least 50 Chadian sides in 2022, which resulted in the Chad Peace Agreement following months of negotiations.
Doha stepped in last year as an interlocutor between the US and Iran in an effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Following last week’s meetings between top Doha and Tehran officials, talks appeared to gain momentum after a long period of apparent stalemate.
By 2023, Qatar opened the United Nations House, gathering key entities that would help boost its decades-long cooperation with the international organisation, from refugee support to promoting peace globally.
Qatar notably expanded its humanitarian support to the international community, providing more than $6.4 billion in aid to more than 100 countries.
Throughout the 2017 Gulf Cooperation Council crisis, Sheikh Tamim proved that the country’s “sovereignty is a red line”, a position that earned it global respect. Responding to 13 demands placed by the quartet at the time in order to lift the embargo, Qatar rejected all of them.
Sheikh Tamim has also been applauded for his unwavering stance in global files, most notably the Palestinian cause. Qatar ensures to condemn Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine at international forums while constantly slamming the double standard approaches towards the cause.
More recently, Doha’s solid stance was seen in its rejection in normalising with Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime despite the latest regional wave of normalisation.
In the latest Arab League Summit on 19 May, the amir did not attend Assad’s speech, his first since Syria was reinstated in the bloc after more than a decade of isolation.
Aside mediating on critical files, Qatar has also managed to secure numerous prisoner releases over the past 10 years.
In 2014, Qatar negotiated the release of 13 nuns and 45 United Nations peacekeepers who were held in Syria.
In 2021, the Gulf state helped secure the release of seven Turkish civilians held by Libya’s Khalifa Haftar’s forces for two years. Within the same year, Qatar helped with the release of American journalist Danny Fenster from Myanmar’s prison after being sentenced to 11 years for incitement.
Last year, Qatar assisted in the release of US aid worker Safi Rauf and his brother, Anees Khalil, a British citizen, following months in the Taliban’s custody.
More recently, Qatar helped facilitate the release of Paul Rusesabagina, widely known as the “Hotel Rwanda hero,” from Rwandan prison in March.
A breakthrough in Rusesabagina’s case was reported just days after a meeting between Kagame and Sheikh Tamim during the same month.
In mentioning Qatar’s developments over the decade, one cannot oversee the 2022 FIFA World Cup success, an event that turned all eyes towards the region, breaking many stereotypes about the Arab world.
“Under his intelligent leadership, Qatar hosted an extraordinary edition of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, for which Arabs and Muslims around the globe are ecstatic, and shattered all negative preconceptions of the Middle East and Africa,” Al Marri noted.
A wave of criticism targeted Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup as the first Arab country to do so under what analysts widely described as “Western monopoly” over the football industry.
The criticism took on various forms, from sensationalised headlines to the promotion of a orientalist and racist carcicatures of the Arab and Muslim world, which continued throughout the entirety of the tournament.
Still, Qatar dodged all critics by displaying the region’s hospitable culture while hosting what has been widely described as the “safest” and “best” version of the World Cup.
But Qatar’s position as a sports capital goes way beyond the World Cup.
In 2015, Qatar hosted the World Handball Championship, followed by the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2019 and its first Formula 1 race in 2021.
Over the course of the decade, Qatar hosted 470 international sporting events, with its sports role being showcased at the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum.
From culture, economic growth and diplomacy to sports, Sheikh Tamim built on the previous success of the country’s former leader, developing Qatar into a budding platform for dialogue and cultural exchanges.
“The achievements of His Highness during the ten years were not limited to local affairs, but rather extended to all parts of the world, reflecting the originality and genius of the continuous journey of work and effort initiated by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani, accompanied by the tribes and families of Qatar, passing through all Qatar’s leaders who followed the path and achieved success,” Al-Marri said.