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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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A painting that combines Qatar’s history with its footballing future

The artwork, which combines Qatar’s rich past and traditions with its love for football, is attracting huge attention at a Doha restaurant.
Photo/ Vinod Divakaran

The 2022 FIFA World Cup may still be another three years away, but that has not stopped people in the country from coming up with creative ways to welcome the mega event.

Zaitoon Restaurant and Grill, in Doha’s Al Ghanim area, has commissioned a big painting – four metres tall and two metres wide – that depicts Qatar’s rich culture and its deep bond with the beautiful game.

Several international footballers of the past and present, as well as Qatari stars, take pride of place in the painting.

While Pele, Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Johann Cryuff make up the international star cast, former players Mansour Muftah, Mahmoud Soufi, Mubarak Mustafa and 2006 Asian Player of the Year Khalfan Ibrahim represent Qatar.

Safeer Ahmed, Director of the Zaitoon Restaurant Group, said the artwork had been almost five years in the making.

“We first decided to enter Qatar’s hospitality field in December, 2010, immediately after it won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. But it took us almost four years to finally get the project off the ground. From the very beginning, our idea was to celebrate Qatar’s successful bid, and that’s how the thought of such a painting came up,” he told Inside Qatar.

Five artists from the Guernica Art Gallery in Kozhikode, Kerala, headed by Meharab Bachan, completed the painting in five months. Bachan spoke about the painting’s evolution from an idea into an impressive work of art.

“When the owners of Zaitoon Restaurant, who I personally know, approached me to design a unique artwork that combined the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Qatar’s rich history, I jumped at the chance,” he told Inside Qatar over phone from Kozhikode.

“We wanted to portray Qatar’s history in a single canvas, keeping football in the spotlight,” he added.

It took several months of hard work and extensive planning to get it in its final form.

“For us, the first step was to thoroughly study the subject matter – Qatar’s history – and decide what all needed to be included in the painting. Our research team worked on it exhaustively for a month before zeroing in on the different aspects,” he said.

“Since the work was being done on a big canvas, we had to get the details exactly right. We sketched the picture on large white papers thrice to set its alignment correctly and hence make it pleasing to the eye. Once all elements were in place, we copied it onto the actual canvas and started painting. It was hard work,” said Bachan.

Once completed, the gallery insured the painting and sent it to Qatar by air. Bachan came to Doha and personally oversaw its safe transfer to the wall where it is displayed.

So has the painting managed to make an impact? Ahmed replied in the affirmative.

“Most of our clients are wowed by the painting’s size and scope. They pose for selfies in front of it and share it on their social media channels. We get great satisfaction in seeing this because our ultimate aim is for people to acknowledge and celebrate Qatar’s sporting culture,” he signed off.