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Housing thousands of workers
Pearl Village is a 170-acre residential area built to house the huge number of contractor staff who constructed Pearl GTL, the world’s largest gas-to-liquids plant, for Qatar Petroleum and Shell. In January 2012 the ownership of Pearl Village was transferred to Ras Laffan Industrial city.
An aerial image of the Pearl village
At peak some 52,000 people worked on the Pearl GTL project. Contractor staff came to Qatar from more than 50 countries to build the Pearl plant. As the project moved to full production, construction workers transferred to new projects or headed back to their home countries.
The Pearl Village was a vast grid-like network of streets with neat rows of temporary air-conditioned dormitories 10 minutes’ drive from the Pearl GTL plant, but still within Ras Laffan Industrial City. From the start it had to be a fully-fledged community that made the contractors feel at home.
“It was very important for the project that we looked after the workers,” said Chuck Doherty, who was village “mayor”. “That meant both at work in terms of safety on the job, but also after work too.”
Pearl Village was built around a green belt known as “Al Muntazah”, which means ”the park” in Arabic. This recreation area boasts sports fields (cricket, football, basketball, baseball, tennis), an outdoor cinema, food stalls, shops, Internet cafes and shaded seating areas.
Chuck Doherty ran a 250-strong volunteer group that supported a small welfare team that organised events such as basketball competitions, quiz evenings and even fun runs which attracted thousands of runners including senior project managers and their spouses. The team organised more than 3,000 events in 2010.
At the peak of construction, it took a huge workforce of over 1,800 to keep everything in the village running smoothly, including almost 500 cleaners and over 1,000 kitchen staff.
Pearl Village was a melting pot of cultures with different tastes in food. A wide range of national dishes were available in the mess halls reflecting the variety of the workers’ origins.
Uncles, aunts and imams
Shell workers having lunch
Life away from home for long periods — often a year or more at a time — can cause stress. A network of “uncles” and “aunts”, made up of volunteers working on the project, provided support and guidance to those who needed it.
During the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, a group of imams visited Pearl Village to lead prayers for the many Muslims among the contractors. Shell and the Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs, along with the Qatar Guest Centre, distributed thousands of copies of the Holy Koran in over 20 languages to the Muslims working on the project. Dawn prayers on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr in Al Muntazah attracted thousands of worshippers, making it one of the largest Eid prayer gatherings in Qatar.