The big changes and best Doha memories of the year
Time Out Doha staff
December 02, 2013 7:26 AM
Doha is growing so fast we’ve barely been able to keep up. Now that the year is almost over we’re taking a look back at our favourite events and talking about what we’re most looking forward to in 2014. Join us, won’t you?
Power hand over The fact that earlier this year the then Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalilfa Al Thani transferred all his power to his son (the new Emir) HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani – is rather unique.
And the fact that’s it’s gone smoothly for us public folk has been very impressive. We have no doubt that 2013 will go down as one of the most important years in Qatar’s modern history and we’re glad to have been a part of it.
Tempting eats We kick started the year with much fanfare as the doors opened to the long-awaited Hakkasan Doha, which later went to win Newcomer of the Year in the Time Out Doha Restaurant Awards 2013, and we’ve been regular visitors ever since.
We also welcomed modern steakhouse The Anvil Rooms to the culinary landscape which has since been busy tantalising ours and many a Doha resident’s taste buds with prime cuts of steak (did anyone see the cow outside Tornado Tower?) as well as delicious fish and vegetarian dishes.
Then, only a couple of months ago, we were whisked off to a romantic Europe in two new Italian restaurants – Paper Moon and La Spiga by Paper Moon.
Let’s also not forget the fun and frivolous addition of Doha Marriott’s Late Brunch on the beach which has blown the door wide open for a whole new range of brunch offerings. We can’t wait!
Controversial art This entire year has seen a smattering of public art be introduced to the streets of Doha and the launch of fabulous exhibitions that are provocative and profound. It all began, for us, with Tunisian-French calligraffitist eL Seed who has produced some fantastic murals along the underpasses of Salwa Road, and has ended with the intriguing exhibits by British artist Damien Hirst and Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed.
Severed cows’ heads and burning chickens aside, it has been refreshing to see a slew of contemporary art infiltrate the city in such a way that encourages free speech and thought from all sides of the opinion spectrum. And now we’re left with some iconic public art pieces such as the 14 sculptures that make up The Miraculous Journey outside Sidra Medical and Research Centre and were created exclusively for Qatar by Hirst, as well as the thought-provoking Coup de tête statue from Paris by Abdessemed, which depicts French footballer Zidane head butting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup.
A new generation of film We can’t say we weren’t sad to say bye to the glitz and glam of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival but we’ve certainly been intrigued by the ideas behind our two new major film events – Ajyal Youth Film Festival and the Qumra Film Festival. Just last month we saw kids gather to judge their favourite children’s films and anime offerings, spurring great local interest in cinema that previously had not been achieved. We’re thinking that the future of Qatar’s film landscape will be full of drama and definitely in technicolour (hopefully not so much 3D though).
A deeper history A wider interest in the historic roots of Qatar has been gaining momentum for a while now but two things happened this year to give it that extra boost. Firstly, the Heritage Collection launched as part of the upcoming Qatar National Library. This is where the public can find some fascinating pieces that highlight the history of Qatar and the region such as the oldest maps where ‘Katara’ is first mentioned, reports and diaries by people who travelled here many eons ago and even a miniature Qur’an which you’ll need a magnifying glass to read. Then, Al Zubarah became Qatar’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site. This coastal town that lies around 100 kilometres northwest of Doha used to be a centre for trade and pearling. It’s since been abandoned but a team of archaeologists from the Copenhagen University, supported by Qatar Museums Authority, excavated it and got it inscribed on this prestigious list in record time. Now, the public can fully explore and learn more about one of Qatar’s most interesting towns.
Cultural diplomacy The second Year of Culture, Qatar-UK 2013, has been a big hit in our eyes (we’re not biased because we’re British we swear!) because it’s seen the birth of some amazing projects between two small but powerful countries. Some of the highlights included the Arts and Disability Festival at Katara Cultural Village, curated by the British Council and the first of its kind in the Middle East, which featured works by leading British deaf and disabled artists. The Old Doha Prize was also one of a kind and brought together architects and designers based both in the UK and Qatar for a week-long design residency in Doha. In England, a fantastic Pearls Exhibition by Qatar Museums Authority is still being held at the Victoria & Albert Museum and explores the history of pearls. But back in Doha, we have also really enjoyed Hajj – The Journey Through Art (which is still on at the Museum of Islamic Art until January 5), an exhibition that celebrates the holy pilgrimage of Hajj and displays collections that have never been seen in public before. And, of course, the Damien Hirst exhibition has really turned people’s heads and opened minds.
Memorable events From visits by high caliber comedians like Maz Jobrani, Chris Tucker and Russell Peters to dramatic plays such as Romeo and Juliet or The Woman in Black, 2013 has been full of great events that deserve recognition. We’re sure the little ones won’t be forgetting the epic Disney On Ice performance for many years to come, and both kids and adults alike will continue to be wow-ed by the skill demonstrated at Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion for a while (and don’t forget our favourite clowns). Let’s also remember we had some first-time expos for the public that we’ll be looking forward to welcoming again like the Qatar Camping Expo 2013, which was a first of its kind in the Middle East, and the Qatar International Boat Show 2013.
Corniche revamp Okay, okay so it was definitely no fun while the revamp was in process but driving down the corniche now feels oh so much safer than it ever did with all those roundabouts. Plus, you’ve got to admit it was done fairly quickly and ahead of schedule! Traffic may be a nightmare but you can’t deny you breathe a little easier knowing that you won’t be having so many near-accidents on the way to work. Or that you won’t arrive in a morning ready to commit heinous crimes because you’ve been so riled up by people driving straight across instead of around the roundabouts. Silver linings, people. You’ve always gotta find them!
Shopping sprees Purses and wallets all over have been struggling to keep up this year with the slew of stores that have opened across the city. Ikea launched to an excitable flurry in March and then Ezdan Mall contributed greatly as new brands made an appearance on the Doha shopping landscape like W H Smith, Forever 21 and Sharaf DG.
The first homegrown luxury fashion brand Qela, with its first boutique on The Pearl-Qatar, was also launched this year much to our anticipation and proved to be very sophisticated indeed.
It’s not all bad news for the credit card though because we also saw the first ever Doha Flea Market with lots of bargain second-hand, vintage and retro goodies to rifle through.
Music and nightlife We’ve sung ‘It’s Not Unusual’ at the top of our lungs on the beach with the Welsh Voice himself Sir Tom Jones and been introduced to ‘The Hall of Fame’ by Irish rock band The Script at Qatar Foundation’s graduation. We’ve also boogied to superstar DJs like Ferry Corsten, Paul Van Dyk, Laidback Luke and Bob Sinclar. New regular events have been introduced like Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Museum of Islamic Art Park jazz performances and the outdoor Beach Boutique parties at the InterContinental Doha by the Global DJs team. We’re also liking the vibe that DJ Kinky D brings with her to the Late Brunch at Doha Marriott.
Not half bad for music we say!
On a more sophisticated and less nightlife note, we’ve also seen Han-Na Chang take over as music director of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra for the new and successful season.
And on the airwaves, QF Radio launched both an Arabic and English channel with shows and songs for everyone. We’re particularly fond of the educational factoid tidbits. Who knew there was so much to know about ice cream and croissants?!