Malls, Mosques, Museums and Meals - Katara Cultural Village
There are so many great things to do in Qatar that it's hard to know where to start when planning a day out or a holiday itinerary. However, if you like alliteration and love a pre-planned itinerary, then we've been busy on your behalf. Welcome to the first in our series of Malls, Mosques, Museums and Meals, where we give you the lowdown on, as the title suggests, a mall, a mosque, a museum and a first-rate place to have a meal in different areas of the city and beyond. So, if you have a day to spare, read on…
To kick off the series, we are starting in Katara Cultural Village. The village was designed to provide a venue where vibrant global cultures could be shared through the arts and other multicultural activities to promote peace and understanding. To that end, Katara was built to reflect and celebrate global architecture with traditional-style Middle Eastern buildings, a Greek-style amphitheatre, Ottoman-style mosques, European plazas, and more. The village, constructed around traditionally cooled winding streets and alleyways, is home to art galleries, a museum, theatres, an opera house and many other cultural institutions. Even if you're not in Katara for some of the numerous international, regional and local festivals, workshops, performances and exhibitions, there is plenty more to see and do...
Malls, promenades, plazas with water features, a park, a beach with water sports, street art, a planetarium, market stalls, some phenomenal ocean and city views and some unbelievable buildings, including one shaped like a gargantuan present (the children's mall) and another like a falcon's leather hood (Qatar's falcon hunting headquarters), are waiting to delight. However, we're getting ahead of ourselves. Though there are so many attractions in Katara, this article is called Malls, Mosques and Museums for a reason. So, without further ado...
21 High Street Mall
21 High Street is an air-cooled, outdoor shopping promenade lined either side by luxury shops and high-end eateries. This open-air mall can easily take you to a Parisian Spring day with neoclassic European-style architecture, cooled-central strip, and chairs and tables from cafes and restaurants spilling out onto terraces. However, with its clever blend of
local Arabesque architecture added to the mix; the mall is very much in keeping with Katara's global arts and culture theme.
The central strip, cooled to a balmy 25 degrees, even in the summer months, runs the length of the venue culminating in a wide plaza complete with water fountains. The buildings on either side of the promenade house local and international fashion brands, watchmakers and jewellers, such as Joseph, Cartier, David Morris and Van Cleef & Arpels. And world-renowned restaurants and cafes from Novikov, Juan Valdez and Cioccolat Italiani provide welcome refreshments. Continuing the world of luxury, one of the most famous department stores in the world, Galeries Lafayette, also resides at the mall.
Galeries Lafayette is an iconic French department store designed to exude grandeur and opulence, which Doha's Galeries manages in its artistic surroundings and with the lineup of stores, refreshments and services on offer. Housing Karl Lagerfeld to Marc Jacobs, Alexandra Margnat to Aspinal of London, and Gianfranco Lotti to ISHARYA, Galeries offers a whistle-stop global tour in designer outlets. With restaurants and cafes providing French dishes at Cafe Pouchkine, Mediterranean dishes at Wahaj and exquisite chocolates and pastries at 974 Delights, there is plenty to tickle your tastebuds. If that were not enough, why not savour the lap of luxury and hire a personal shopper or a lifestyle advisor whilst you're there.
Watch out for the children's mall behind the high street, designed to look like a giant red gift box with gold and silver bows. This mall was built specifically for children, catering for their designer fashion, entertainment, and education needs all under one roof.
21 High Street may not be to everyone's budget, but it is still worth spending some time there for the architecture and innovative cooled promenade alone!
Opening Hours: Saturday to Wednesday, 10 am - 10 pm; Thursday, 10 am - 12 am;
Friday, 3 pm - 12 am
Location: 21 High Street, Katara Cultural Village, Doha
Contacts: +974 5009 3823 / [email protected]
Katara Blue Mosque
The Katara Blue Mosque is one of the most spectacular buildings in the village due to its superb exterior. Made up of tiny ceramic and glass tiles, hand-painted with reds, browns, golds and purples, but mostly blues, creating a mosaic of patterns and effects, the mosque glows with a blue hue, enchanting all who come across it.
The mosque's design is similar to most Islamic places of worship with a minaret, domes (nine in this case) and prayer mihrab. However, the shape and facade, designed by female architect Zainab Fadil Oglu, were inspired by Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace. Besides the colour blue catching your attention when you visit the mosque, the mosaic effect is also delightful for the intricacies of Arabic calligraphy and Islamic style motifs that the painted tiles create. Plus, the 24 K gold components that adorn the mihrab, minaret domes and calligraphic panels, glinting and shining in the sun, add to the grandeur and elegance of the building.
Visiting the mosque any time is guaranteed to show the building in its best light. Nonetheless, it is a sight to behold when the light reflects off the gold, tiles and glass at sunset. The effect is mesmerising and makes this mosque one of the most instagrammable in Qatar.
The Blue Mosque is open to guests, but only outside of prayer times. For a tour of the building, it is best to contact Qatar's Islamic Cultural Centre, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud, at Fanar Mosque on the Corniche, which provides tours in Arabic and English (+974 4470 1623).
Location: Katara Cultural Village, Doha
Contact: +974 4408 0000
The Arab Stamp Museum
Whether you are a philatelist or not, this tiny stamp museum is a great place to visit when in Katara. The Arab Stamp Museum was founded in 2010 and is housed in a traditional Arab-style sand-coloured building in the heart of the village. The museum's interior belies the exterior, and visitors are welcomed into a light, airy modern space. Brightly lit glass cabinets on the walls and floor enable guests to see the many stamps on display. Some stamps are housed in delightful cabinets backlit through geometric patterned frames.
The stamps (old and new) hail from around twenty-two Arab nations, including Qatar, the UAE, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Palestine and Syria, as well as some Asian and African Muslim countries. These tiny bits of glue-backed paper represent a brightly coloured, visual journey through the history of those countries; their flora and fauna, leaders, significant events, ancient civilisations, traditional costumes, architecture, sports, etc.
The museum also displays some postal equipment used in the past at the post office and a small library with various books on stamp collecting - valuable assets for all those interested in philatelic knowledge.
So, for a little Arabian culture and history and a trip back in time up to the modern day of postal stamps, this museum definitely fulfils the job.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 9 am - 9 pm; Saturday, 9 am - 12 am; Fridays, closed
Location: Building 22, Katara Cultural Village, Doha
Contact: +974 4409 1077
Meal at Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge
Image: Johnnie Rik/Shutterstock.com
There are plenty of places to grab some grub in Katara. From the luxury dining options on 21 High Street and in Galeries Lafayette to Tasty Street, an area full of food outlets and kiosks selling a variety of delicious bites. Among the village streets and alleyways, there are pizzerias, Middle Eastern, Indian, Turkish, Lebanese and French restaurants, seafood eateries, brunch bars, bakeries, cafes, Karak shops, ice cream shops, and ultra cool modern venues to traditional diners. But, our favourite place to eat is along the promenade with views of the Gulf, West Bay's skyscrapers to the front and the colossal amphitheatre behind. Choices include beautiful and super instagrammable Boho Social, MAMIG serving Armenian and Lebanese fare, L'wzzar seafood restaurant, and the fabulous Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge, which is our top pick for this article.
Sukar Pasha Ottoman Lounge is Katara's most opulent Turkish restaurant. With high hand-painted ceilings fitted with chandeliers, plush drapes and curtains, sumptuous sofas with colourful cushions, gold patterned floor tiles and private booths overlooking the promenade - the interior is a delight to behold. However, the rooftop terrace with its panoramic views and the Ottoman and Arabesque-style dining tents can only enhance your dining experience. You can choose from Arabic Majlis on the beach, Kashta tents on Katara Green Hills behind the restaurant, or VIP beach tents - each comes with comfy sofas or cushions, lanterns and fire pits for the evenings and spectacular views.
When it comes to the food, Sukar Pasha serves traditional Turkish food with a little modern flare. If you are there early doors, try the splendid traditional Turkish breakfast - a fabulous spread of olives, cured meats, cheeses, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, freshly baked bread and a variety of spreads and preserves - a treat for the eyes and the stomach! For lunch and dinner, we recommend the Beyti Kebab - chargrilled in lavash bread with an eggplant salad, the Tavuk Yidegor - charcoal-cooked chicken kofta with mini bulgur balls, or anything from the hot and cold meze selections. And, if you're pushing the boat out with dessert, try Akitma - Turkish coffee-infused hot cake, or Kazandibi - caramelised milk pudding; both heavenly!
Opening Hours: Every day, 9 am - 1 am, except Fridays, 9 - 11 am / 1pm - 1 am
Location: Building 31, Katara Cultural Village, Doha
Contact: +974 4408 2000
Getting There and Away
The easiest and cheapest way to get to the village is on the Metro. From town, head north on the Metro Red Line to Katara Station - Msheireb Metro Station provides the interchange across all of the Metro lines, Red, Gold and Green. The station at Katara leaves you outside the 21 High Street promenade, a short walk away from the centre of the village and all of the attractions. Otherwise, a taxi is a relatively cheap and easy way to get there too.
Main image: Sharon Wildie/Shutterstock.com