What started as a sketch for a design competition now stands as an architectural gem ready to host the world’s best footballers in 2022.
The stunning Al Thumama Stadium will be inaugurated on 22 October ahead of the Amir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan. It is the sixth FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 tournament venue to be unveiled by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC).
The SC spoke to the stadium’s architect, Ibrahim M Jaidah, CEO and chief architect of Arab Engineering Bureau. Jaidah – the first Qatari to design a FIFA World Cup tournament venue – discusses the story behind one of the most striking stadiums ever developed.
The stunning Al Thumama Stadium will be inaugurated on 22 October ahead of the Amir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Rayyan
* Inspired by the ‘gahfiya’ head cap
Architects around the world were invited to submit designs inspired by the ‘gahfiya’ – a traditional headpiece worn by men across the Arab world – for a new stadium to be used during the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Jaidah recalls heading to the Old Souq – a traditional marketplace in Qatar – for inspiration prior to putting his ideas on paper.
“I remember that night, I got my hands on all types of 'gahfiyas' in order to study the different patterns on each. I've always worn it as a child, however I didn't expect to see all the different shapes and the depth of their designs,” said Jaidah.
The creative process led to many sleepless nights.
Jaidah continued, “I used to wake up in the middle of the night to examine the patterns on the different 'gahfiyas'. I finally drew a rough sketch that I liked and told my engineers that this will be the design we are going with.”
One of Jaidah’s main goals was to produce a design that resonated with people across the entire region.
He said, “I had a feeling my competitors were going to take the original shape and completely modernise it; removing its traditional essence and making it look nothing like a 'gahfiya'. I wanted to ensure my design was modern but at the same time, I didn’t want to strip it from its traditional identity. Preserving local identity and heritage was of paramount importance to me.”
Jaidah’s final design included streamlined patterns and golden coins. The coin design was later used as inspiration for the ventilation units for the stadium’s advanced cooling technology.
Jaidah added, “The shape of the 'gahfiya' does not only serve a design purpose. In a similar way to how the 'gahfiya' is used to cover one’s head from the heat, the shape is also used to protect the spectators from the sun. The stadium’s interior also carries aspects of the pattern – which fans will see when they attend the final in October.”
* Qatar’s latest FIFA World Cup venue
The 40,000-capacity Al Thumama Stadium will host the 49th Amir Cup final and become the latest FIFA World Cup venue to be unveiled, after Khalifa International, Al Janoub, Education City, Ahmad Bin Ali and Al Bayt. During Qatar 2022, Al Thumama will host eight matches up to the quarter-finals stage of the tournament.
Despite being involved in projects across the globe, Jaidah said designing a FIFA World Cup stadium is a completely different experience.
“It’s the spectators that will bring it to life,” said Jaidah. “Now, with the stadium behind me, the only thing missing is the noise from the fans.”
Jaidah is confident the venue will showcase local heritage and prove popular across Qatar and the region.
“I still stand and try to take it all in. I am very proud to take part in my country’s success in hosting the biggest sporting event in the world,” said Jaidah.
* Inspiring future architects
Jaidah believes the region is living through a golden age in terms of architecture and hopes he can inspire the next generation of designers.
“As Arabs, we have the richest culture in the world. Let’s not forget that Islamic and Arabic architecture are used as prime examples everywhere,” he said.
“My advice to young architects is to keep an eye out for any opportunity that comes your way. This is a fulfilling field and nothing is more satisfying than seeing your design come to life,” he said.
Tickets for the Amir Cup final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd at Al Thumama Stadium on Friday, October 22 (kick-off at 7pm) are available now from the Qatar Football Association website at tickets.qfa.qa