Doha likes to shop. We know that. Hot on the heels of the Mall of Qatar, which opened just a few months ago, comes Doha Festival City (next to Ikea off Al Shamal Road). With a new mall, you don’t only get shops, you get a whole lifestyle destination, with restaurants, cinemas and activities all under the same roof.
While the opening date was nudged back a couple of times, the delay did nothing but increase excitement for the world-class mall, which cost QR6.5bn and has more than 500 stores, upwards of a hundred restaurants and cafés and entertainment options that have not been seen in Qatar before. With all that in mind, Doha Festival City will give serious competition to your regular mall crawl route. Some areas are still to open, but here, Time Out Doha looks at ten reasons to be cheerful about the mall.
1 Angry Birds World
Nobody could have predicted how enormous the Angry Birds would become. After the many games, cartoons, movie and mass of merchandise, it is about to get its own theme park. From a thrill ride, which launches you into the sky at around 100kmph, to a karting track, roller coaster, laser tag and much more, every aspect from the 1,000sqm plus trampoline park to the water rides is based on the game and movie. Fans of the app will lose what is left of their mind and everybody else has around 35 rides over 12,000sqm to win them over. But be warned, the theme tune is going to get stuck in all our heads all over again.
The new capital of video gaming culture in Doha. So much more than a games arcade, Virtuocity will be hub for all things gaming culture. For starters, the 3,500sqm tech zone has a futuristic coliseum where 200 gamers on raised platforms can battle it out on big screens. Around 600 competitions will take place every day and with matches in a variety of games being broadcast around the world, it represents the bleeding edge of gaming technology and competitive tech. As well as big screen gaming there are retro gaming rooms, pro-racing simulators, private VIP rooms and ‘escape room’ challenges.
Alongside theme parks, dining chains and snowmen, it is hard to get too excited about a new hypermarket. But even after passing the news through our hyperbole detector, the forthcoming Monoprix store at Doha Festival City sounds like a giant among its kind. The pre-release blurb is full of the usual boasts that try to make a big shop sound like the hottest thing since the discovery of fire. Then our eyes fell on the bit about the French store having an entire “cheese cave” and a waffle room and we’ve already booked a day’s holiday just to explore. There are going to be more than 35,000 product lines in the giant shopping space with popular brands from the UK, Spain and Italy making their Qatar debuts.
4 Eat the mall
Dining options and plentiful food courts are nothing new in Qatar. But, even by national standards, Doha Festival City is really going for it. We’ve heard tell of the country’s first Five Guys opening soon. The fast-expanding American chain has around 1,500 locations worldwide and will be an essential stop for burger connoisseurs and completionists. Our stomachs have also expressed an interest in the return of Dean & Deluca, a new Cheesecake Factory and an appearance from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Even if you’re not into shopping, a trip to sample the foods is advisable.
5 Harvey Nichols
Luxury fashion department store Harvey Nichols will make its Qatar debut at Festival City. One of the most famous stores in London, “Harvey Nics” has been trading in the exclusive Knightsbridge neighbourhood since 1831 and already has outposts in Kuwait, Riyadh and Dubai. It will come with exclusive, high-end fashion brands as well as premium high street names.
6 Gourmet cinema
We keep telling ourselves that the cinema experience can’t make a good film bad, or vice versa, but we don’t really believe it. 18 screens and innovative viewing options at this Vox cinema are a great start. Of course, it includes great surround sound, premium seating and party rooms for kids. What we’re really looking forward to, however, are gourmet snacks and in-screen dining from celebrity chef Gary Rhodes. THEATRE by Rhodes has a menu designed by the Michelin star-winning chef, restaurateur and TV personality. All served in a reclining leather seat and with the levels of panache that would make a Steven Segal double-bill seem manageable. Although, perhaps not in the multi-sensory 4DX screens, which bring movies to life with scents, touch and lighting and water effects.
7 Katsuya by Starck
One international brand that demands more and immediate attention is Katsuya. Opening at both Doha Festival City and in Villagio shortly, it promises the high scores of style and Japanese foodieness that we like. A spin-off of one of the best-loved sushi restaurants in Los Angeles, it is a chic collaboration between master chef Katsuya Uechi and design impresario Philippe Starck. Expect nothing less than game-changing visuals and fresh, innovative Japanese food.
8 Snow Dunes
Other Middle East cities might already have indoor ski attractions (hello, Dubai) but this is the first to come with an Arabian theme. We’re not exactly sure why somebody thought that was the most suitable concept, but all we’re worried about is playing around in the cold stuff. A state-of-the-art snow machine means that the snowfall is real and the same as found in nature. Frozen water, basically. Rides, snowball fights and snowman-making sessions are now within our grasp any time of year. And without having to jet off to the Alps to experience them. Snow Dunes has the potential to jump straight into our must-do list for visitors, parties or, well, any excuse really.
If role-playing fun and aspirational edutainment sounds good to you then Juniverse will absolutely be of interest to you. It’s the sort of place that brings out pride and a competitive streak in parents. The city within a city has a loose space theme, but the enormous 6,000sqm play zone is really about make-believe and discovering the careers of tomorrow. Juniverse has rides and around 50 role-play activities allowing kids to try their hand at being a doctor, engineer or fashion designer. And we mentioned it is all set in space already, right?
Do kids really need to be pampered? Not exactly. Do parents deserve a place where they can feel more relaxed about the soft play they’re treating kids to. Definitely! Crafts, cognitive development games, dress-up and an imagination-heavy approach to play are likely to appeal to parents wanting more than screams and ball pools for their children’s weekend entertainment.