In an effort to revitalize the interest I once had for the arts and all things cultural, I decided to spend an evening in the newly opened “Cultural Village” in Qatar. As a lover of most things arty, my heart skipped a beat whilst viewing the spectacular city skyline in the rear view mirror as we headed away from the shopping malls and bright lights to experience some read culture.
Built on reclaimed coastal land to the north of Doha, the Cultural Village which is near completion, has been created to reflect the heritage of Qatar through traditional architecture, and accommodates lots of facilities. This multi million euro project boasts an amphitheatre, heritage centers, libraries, art galleries and other academic facilities, not to mention retail outlets, coffee shops, museum facilities and market areas.
Located in the West Bay area of Doha with a total area of 99 hectares, the Cultural Village is accessed for free through a gated entrance opposite Doha Exhibition Center If you enter through the latter, you will see a big underground car park (which I think it’ll become a commercial/shopping center in the future).
Cultural Village recently rebranded as “Katara” has been divided into different areas, the first of which will encompass societies and institutions. Visitors are free to meander around the main Katara area which has been built in the style of the traditional Qatari alleyways, call Al Fareej. 37 traditional style buildings will become home to various societies and institutions. The main area includes a media center, various academic facilities, a handicraft souq, book market, cafes and coffee shops, green areas and information centers, as well as access to the man-made beach, due to open in the coming weeks, there is a separate fee charge for use of the beach.
The second area features several restaurants, all exclusive to Middle East, and all themed: Saffron Lounge (Indian), L’wzaar (fish market), Khan Farouk (Egyptian) and Sukar Pasha (Turkish). There are also street/beach vendor selling cai and gahwa (tea and coffee), and La Gelateria (ice cream).
The third and fourth areas will incorporate retail and residential buildings, with views to having a mall, hundreds of shops, and hundreds of villas, which no doubt with become available at premium cost.
“Katara has been built out of a desire to make Qatar foremost in the Middle East as a center of arts, music and literature”. It’s this kind of strap line together with reported project costs in the region of Eu. 100 million euro that highlights the efforts and monies some countries are will to invest to buy an atmosphere of culture, and despite the stunning architecture, the impressive amphitheatre and the expensive yet tasteful outdoor lighting, it didn’t quench my thirst for heritage.
Walking around the outdoor creation, I read each information sheet and posting, looking for details of an upcoming play or musical event, the last glossy flyer I read mentioned the coming of a 580m hotel, making it Qatar’s tallest.
My heart sank, as fond memories of Ireland drifted through my mind, evenings spent in Cork City home to the Cork Opera House, Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork Arts Theatre, The Savoy, The Half Moon Theatre, Granary Theatre, The Firkin Crane and the Triskel Arts Centre and many more. Hubs for new talent and old haunts for established acts. On any given night of the week one can walk down McCurtain Street and have a pint of Guinness, est. 1778 in Dan Lowry’s est. 1875, and walk across St. Patrick’s Bridge, est. 1789 to the Cork Opera House est. 1855 to enjoy a live show of drama, or music and if you’re still feeling fresh take a jaunt down Oliver Plunkett Street or across Morrison Island and pick a bar, where there’s sure to be great live music. Thoughts of day’s spent lunching in the English market, trading since 1788, midst visits to the Crawford Art Gallery in Emmet Place; the Lewis Glucksman Gallery at UCC, as well as commercial galleries such as the Fenton Art Gallery, and the Form Gallery in Paul Street as well as the Lavit Gallery at no. 5 Fr Mathew Street. Ok, I did pepper these days with visits to Penney’s and River Island but only to buy something to wear to the theatre that night.
The thick sweet smell of the expensive perfumes, (worn by the Arabic ladies enjoying their espresso’s al fresco the Segafredo with their Louis Vinton handbags strewn casually beside their Manolo Blahnik’s on the marble paved concourse), brought me back to the present and standing in the magnificent centre built to create the appearance of heritage. It was clear that while Doha might stink of cash, Cork holds the crown for culture.