Blogging about my experience going to a mall sounds and feels a bit odd to me. If I were in the Philippines, this could be a normal thing. Mall culture in the Philippines is so huge, it has been part of everyone’s lives especially those who were born (or at least grew up) in the 90s. Almost everything that you can think of, a certain mall might have it (be it hardware shop, a cosmetic clinic, a church, passport renewal, even a pet grooming salon). Malls back home are like a Mecca of everything.
But this is Qatar—a city-state of rich and affluent Arabs with a majority of the population are working expatriates. It is quite amusing to see the fast growing mall culture in the country given its size and the general population. I remember when I first arrived here, there were only 4 main malls that you can visit on a weekend (Villaggio, City Center Mall, Landmark, and The Mall) if I will skip those so-called Hypermarkets which are pretty common too.
Today, malls have been popping one after the other. There are a few more still under construction and some that will soon be opening. The most recent one that opened its doors to the public is the Mall of Qatar—tagged as “the First Super Regional Mall” (whatever that means).
Here’s what the official press kit states (Original text can be found here ) :
“Our mall is not a mall.
It was conceived to be much more than that. We actively thought about what Qatar and the region needed and then designed and re-designed our space to excite, thrill, engage, relax, and unwind.
We thought about the wide space. We thought about the warm sunshine. We thought about choices. And then we planned a destination that truly refreshes.
We gather friends together. Coffee breaks, dinners, shopping sprees gone wild. We invite fathers to spend full days sparking their children’s interest. And mothers to unwind in a much-needed getaway. We beckon the businessman in need of a break, and the businesswoman taking advantage of her free time.
But more than that, we are about moments of delight. Captivating attention on a stage designed to invoke excitement and with a performance troop trained to mesmerize. ”
It opened December 10, right before the holiday season and Qatar National Day, but I am not really a mall person so I wasn’t that eager to check it out immediately. It seems that everyone had already gone there and I was like: “Ok, let’s wait until it simmer.”. I spoke too early. Last weekend, I joined a couple of friends who planned to go there and check what’s the hype all about.
Facts and Figures
I’ve always had this inside joke when I see things here in Qatar: It is as if they live by the motto: Go Big or Go Home. Most of the things they do here must come with a superlative adjective. It holds true to this mall. It now holds the record as the biggest mall in Qatar and probably one of the biggest in the region.
- It covers 500,000 sq. meters of shopping area.
- It boasts to be home of 500 retail stores and 100 restaurants.
- It houses 19 Novo Cineplex theaters (complete with 4D experience) and has the largest IMAX Screen in the Middle East.
- It features an Oasis of greenery with interactive dancing fountains and waterfalls; and a 360 degree revolving stage.
Whew! That’s quite a mouthful.
How to get there:
The mall is located in Al Jahhaniya Interchange, Al Rayyan—off Qatar’s main city center. Ideally, as the press release would claim, it is 20 minutes away from Downtown Doha. But in reality and with the present state of Qatar’s ongoing construction phase, it will take longer. A lot longer.
Depending on what time of the day and which day of the week you decide to go, your travel time would take at least an hour. As mentioned, Qatar is undergoing a heavy face lift so constructions are everywhere. Google Map has become quite unreliable recently due to sudden changes in routes and barriers all over the place. But once you reach the place, you will be greeted by the massive mall and quite the grandiose that the above slew of fancy adjectives used to describe the so-called “Super Regional Mall”.
As of the moment, no news have been heard yet if there is a public bus available which covers this route. Most likely, your option would only be a Karwa taxi, an Uber/ Careem, or a private limousine if you don’t have your own car. Quite honestly, it is on the expensive side as fare estimate is around 70 QAR and up (one way) using these apps.
Perhaps I came in the wrong day (Friday) being the lone rest day of most of us. The place was packed with families, shoppers and onlookers (like me).Traffic was inevitable both ways. It is expected that the number of people will get less in the coming months and hopefully, along with it is an ease in the traffic situation.
The mall is proud that it has 7 Light Artworks installed all over. Some of which are:
MoQ takes pride of the greenery being incorporated into the overall look of the mall. The Oasis is my personal favorite. It is always a good thing to see something green (especially on this side of the world).
This part of the mall is quite impressive as it felt like you are in a concert arena when someone is performing.
On the other hand, there are still a lot of other shops that are set to open. Despite the fact that the mall is massive, a quarter of it is still closed. Oddly, some shops (I won’t name drop) are not totally finished (yet operating), I thought at first that it has an Industrial design as its main concept. But I was wrong. They’re just not yet done constructing (read: unpainted walls and exposed ceiling).
For those who would like to try staycationing for a weekend, or just simply got tired of shopping and decided to stay, Al Rayyan Hotel is right next door. You can even have a breakfast at the cozy cafe downstairs.
As part of the ongoing Shop Qatar 2017, happening from 7 January to 7 February, most shops are on sale up to 50% making it quite a worthwhile trip if you really are into shopping. Qatar is recently making an effort to up its tourism industry and part of it is launching this inaugural shopping festival. Shop to your heart’s content and get a chance to win cash up to QAR 4 Million. Yes, loads of cash! I guess it’s the right time to splurge and experience a new shopping experience this new mall has to offer.