It’s been a big year for hotel openings in the city. The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa (www.westindoha.com) brought some much-needed refreshment to the Freej Bin Mahmoud and Al Saad neighbourhoods, with its six food and beverage outlets, plus the recently opened Heavenly Spa. It also brought famed UAE-import the Bubbalicious brunch to the city.
City Centre Rotana (www.rotana.com) and Shangri-La Hotel Doha (www.shangri-la.com/doha) also opened within 100 metres of each other. City Centre Rotana’s affordable approach to luxury means you can get some excellent food here without breaking the bank.
Misk, in particular, serves some fantastic Lebanese fare, while Caramel lobby lounge serves better pastries than most (try the freshly-baked caramel éclair). It’s also the home of casual American pub Boston’s, and their monthly food challenges (which have so far involved spicy chicken wings and a two-kilo burger).
Head over to Shangri-La and you’ll find a range of high-end restaurants serving everything from fresh seafood and succulent Argentine steaks to contemporary Chinese at Shanghai Club.
Doha also got its first-ever fully raw, vegan café, Evergreen Organics (www.evergreenorganics.qa), a small sign that the health food trends taking the world by storm are beginning to catch on here in Qatar.
Meanwhile, the Sheraton Park officially opened on the outskirts of the Corniche after years of construction. It’s full of fountains, lawns, flowery pathways, musical fountains and play areas for kids – plus some outdoor gym equipment for the grown-ups.
The Pearls’ biggest launches came in the form of entertainment emporium Megapolis (www.megapolisqatar.com) and its sprawling complex of virtual golf, race car and jet simulators, arcades, karaoke rooms and cafés. And superclub and terrace Illusion (www.facebook.com/illusiondoha). From impressive dinner shows to casual weekend evenings out on the lush rooftop terrace, this nightlife venue is one of our favourite things that opened in the city this year.
Big things are also happening for Doha’s music and entertainment industry, with Katara Studios (www.thisismetropolis.com/international/qa) entering its soft-launch phase this year. It’s already played host to the likes of Cat Stevens and is well on the way to becoming the region’s biggest and most state-of-the-art hub for music and recording.
…and the improved
Shiny new openings are all well and good, but we are equally excited about some of the renovations that have breathed life into some of the city’s favourite venues.
At the InterContinental Doha (www.ihg.com) almost everything, from the rooms to the restaurants got a facelift, including all-day dining restaurant Coral and Greek restaurant Mykonos, while Belgian Café’s impressive new outdoor terrace is due to open this month.
The Ritz-Carlton properties followed suit. At Sharq Village, seafood restaurant Al Dana was renovated and now has a stunning new menu of fresh, creative, and beautifully presented dishes. The adjacent alfresco C Lounge also went under the hammer to re-open with a new, modern look.
On the other side of town, The Ritz-Carlton Doha’s (www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/qatar/doha) Level 23 transformed into La Mer Bistro, a casually elegant bistro offering authentic French cuisine and panoramic coastal views. Its huge Friday brunch also went from buffet to à la carte, with red and white chequered table cloths, fake grass, sharing dishes and a picnic theme. If that were not enough, once a month the brunch combines its picnic vibe with an extra superhero theme and you’ll be served by a variety of Spidermen and Superwomen and feast on everything from Superman cakes to Batman Burgers.
One of the city’s most popular bars, Wahm, (www.wahmdoha.com) at the W Doha, also underwent a complete overhaul, while Bohemia (www.kempinski.com/en/doha/marsa-malaz-kempinski-the-pearl-doha) at Marsa Malaz Kempinski re-opened as a café.
Doha’s most renowned jazz venue Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha rebranded as The Club at The St. Regis (www.theclubdoha.com). There’s a new menu, and a brand-new atmosphere, featuring a wide range of music from Motown to soul to R‘n’B, though there will still be plenty of classic jazz from world-renowned musicians.
Oh, and Civil Defence Roundabout finally became a smooth-sailing junction. If that’s not good news, quite frankly, we don’t know what is.
Qatar, for the first time, hosted the UCI Road World Championships in October, when the world’s best cyclists descended on the streets of The Pearl. Tough desert winds, high temperatures and one case of heatstroke made it an eventful week of racing.
Nevertheless – and despite the infuriating road closures – the event was a success, and a regional first for the competition. And this year more success – and more firsts – came in the form of silver medals. It was the first year that Qatar took home silver Olympic and Paralympic medals (two of which were first-ever Paralympic medals).
Mutaz Barshim, the high jumping social media sensation, sparked the hashtag #thingsbarshimcanjumpover after almost breaking the world record in 2014. He missed out on the gold medal, however, by mere fractions of a metre. Canadian Derek Drouin came on out on top, jumping 2.38 metres to Barshim’s 2.36 metres. Meanwhile, the handball team made it to the quarter finals.
A huge achievement, even if they didn’t manage to clinch the top spot this year.
Huge victories were also achieved at the Paralympic games, where Abdelrahman Abdelqader and Sara Masoud both brought home silver medals for shot put. Masoud became Qatar’s first-ever female Paralympic medallist after throwing 5.09 metres in a closely fought final against Algerian Asmahan Boudjadar (who won gold) and the UAE’s Sara Al-Senaani.
It was all a bit quiet on the concert front this year, but that doesn’t mean Doha’s stages weren’t still rocked by some of the world’s biggest stars. First up, Dutch DJ superstar Tiësto played live in one of the most spectacular shows the city has seen, complete with confetti cannons, giant LED screens and fireworks. Retro Scottish duo The Proclaimers played huge singalong hits like 500 miles down at the InterContinental Doha, and the one and only king of London cool, Tinie Tempah, hit the stage alongside Lost Frequencies.
There were plenty of knockout performances in theatre as well. Most memorably, when everyone’s favourite green ogre. Shrek, appeared not just on stage at the National Convention Centre, but also at pop-up events all over the city.
Qatar’s population has reached a record high, and is now home to more than 2.6 million people – around 200,000 people have moved to the country since last year.
Hakkasan (www.hakkasan.com/locations/hakkasan-doha) took home our coveted Restaurant of the Year award at the Time Out Doha Restaurant Awards in April, making it the first restaurant ever to win the award two years in a row.
The Grand Hyatt Doha’s notorious Liquid Brunch (www.doha.grand.hyatt.com) hit the one-year mark. The event has become such an integral part of the weekend brunch tradition that we can hardly remember Fridays without it. Meanwhile, other restaurants in the city broke world records. Ard Canaan (www.ardcanaan.com), a brand-new Levantine restaurant in Katara Cultural Village, is the proud owner of what is, officially, the world’s largest key (at 7.76 metres by 2.8 metres), according to the Guinness World Records.
And, sadly, Doha bid farewell to QF Radio. After seven years on air, the station signed off for the last time in October.
Art in the city
It has been an incredible year for Doha’s art scene. The mesmerising exhibition What about the art? Contemporary Art from China came to Al Riwaq Gallery with its room-sized installations and fascinating overview of Chinese history over time, and the latest exhibition
Treasures of China is still running at the Museum of Islamic Art (www.qm.org.qa) until January 7, 2017. From film screenings to the huge cultural festival of food, music and more held last month, it’s been one of the best years of culture yet.
Msheireb Museums (www.msheireb.com/museums) also opened their doors in the restored heritage houses of the Msheireb Downtown project. The museums explore Qatar’s history through themes of slavery, domestic life and the oil industry. It also charts Doha’s rapid expansion from unusual angles, like the introduction of electricity to the city.
Exciting developments to come out of Hamad International Airport include the introduction of a new, free, four-day transit visa for anyone stopping in Doha for four hours or more. The visas must be applied for a minimum of seven days in advance and are available to any nationality, but only those travelling on Qatar Airways. It's a move that should give tourism to the city a boost, given the thousands of passengers who fly through each month.
Just last month, the airport finally opened its indoor trainline. If you’ve ever toughed out the trek from Hamad’s farthest plane stand with a heavy laptop bag, over-stuffed carry-on, kids, or all of the above, you’ll understand why this made the list.
And, last but not least, Hamad got its very own theme song. Yes, you did read that right. Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and Dana Alfardan collaborated to create The Beginning, a classical score complete with its own video.
Coming soon… (sort of)
If you’ve lived in Doha longer than five minutes, you’ll know that it’s a city of rumours. The on-again-off-again Bahrain-Doha causeway, for example, or the luxury semi-submerged hotel Amphibious 1,000 (which appears to be pencilled in for 2022, but we’ll believe it when we see it). However, there are a few projects and events that have actually, physically, broken ground – and look well on the way to launching in 2017.
The Canadian superstar will be in the city for a night of guitar solos and classic pop-rock tracks that you can sing your heart out to.
From QR300. March 15, 2017. Grand Hyatt Doha, West Bay Lagoon, www.q-tickets.com.
Qatar International Golf Club (www.qigolfclub.com) is on track to becoming one of the most sustainable golf courses in the world. Alongside its golf-themed park –18- and six-hole championship courses (designed by two-time Masters champion José María Olazábal), the nine-hole par-three course, tennis courts, restaurants, spa and gym – is its commitment to conserve water, reduce energy use and pollution and give back to the community. No word yet on an official opening date, but we’re expecting it to be within the next year.
The biggest man-made forest in the GCC can be found right here in Qatar. Now close to completion, the more than eight square-kilometre plot of land will be home to some 950,000 trees (most of which have already been planted), two lakes and four islands. Planned as a public park, the green space is currently expected to be finished in March next year.
Next year looks like it’s going to be jam-packed with mall openings. At the time of going to press, we’re poised to find out whether Mall of Qatar will finally open on December 10. After months of postponed dates, we could be onto a winner with December. You could even be reading this very issue snug in the corner of a brand new MoQ coffee shop. If not, 2017 could be (should be) the year. Other malls pegged for a 2017 opening include the grand, Italian-inspired Alhazm, Doha Festival City and Tawar Mall.
Mandarin Oriental, Doha
This new luxury hotel was announced back in 2010, and after a few changes in schedule it’s now slated for a 2017 opening. Little has been revealed about the property, other than that it will be located in Msheireb, and bringing its world-famous spa to the city.