All photos for Doha News
Thousands of curious shoppers turned up to explore Qatar’s newest, biggest mall yesterday after its soft launch opening.
About half of the QR6 billion Doha Festival City (DFC)’s 500 stores are currently open, with more to follow in the coming weeks and months.
DFC has brought several new names to Qatar, including upscale British department store Harvey Nichols, Borders bookstore, stationery specialists Paperchase, Ace Hardware and Japanese interiors label Muji.
However, many of these are not yet open to the public.
Mall officials previously said its outlets and facilities should be fully open by September.
This is despite DFC postponing its launch several times, due to what officials said were issues with “supporting infrastructure.”
If you plan to head to the new mall this weekend, here’s what you need to know:
DFC is situated north of Doha, next to IKEA, just off of Al Shamal Road –about 10 minute’s drive north of Landmark Mall.
If you’re coming from central Doha, pass the under-construction North Gate mall on your left, then look for brown signs on the right indicating the slip road for DFC.
A flyover leads to access roads behind the mall, which have multiple entrances to multi-story car parks and shaded parking lots.
Alternatively, motorists can follow the road round, going past IKEA to the front of the mall, which leads to the West parking area. This is at ground level and is unshaded.
It’s also where the valet and VIP valet parking facilities are.
While there is a fee (QR30/60) to use these, all the other parking is free.
In total, there will be 8,000 parking spaces across four levels of the complex, although construction is ongoing at some sections at the front of the mall.
To leave DFC, follow clearly-marked signs back to the Al Shamal Road, and take the lanes marked for Doha.
What’s open so far
Around half the stores, and some cafes and coffee shops, were open to the public on launch day yesterday.
Qatar “firsts” that were already up and running included UK stationery store Paperchase and a branch of the minimalist Japanese clothing and interiors chain Muji.
There are also new outposts of homeware store Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn kids, a Bateel cafe and a large Toys R Us.
This is in addition to branches of Qatar staples such as Zara, H&M, Mothercare, Virgin Megastore, Centrepoint and Home Centre.
Staff at Qatar’s third and biggest branch of M&S welcomed customers to the two-level store.
This branch contains a food hall with some lines of its popular chilled and ready-made meals, as well as an in-store bakery and a table-service cafe.
Other mall F&B outlets that are already open include branches of Starbucks and Tim Hortons.
What’s still to come
The shutters were still down on what has been billed as the world’s biggest Monoprix store. Staff said they hoped it would open around April 14.
Several of the mall’s anchor tenants have also yet to open, including department stores Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and BHS.
Borders books, the Lego store, Go Sport, Japanese discount shop Daiso and French music and book store FNAC were also either behind hoardings or still shuttered.
And DIY enthusiasts will need to wait a couple more months for the launch of the country’s first hardware superstore, as Ace is working toward a June opening, according to a mall guide.
The 18-screen Vox Cinemas was also still closed to the public, as workers could be seen still finishing off the inside.
A cinema staffer said they hoped the movie theater would open in the coming week or so.
When it does launch, it will have screens with multi-sensory 4DX technology.
This will allow viewers to experience sensations as well as visuals – such as rain, fog, wind, bubbles, scents and vibrations – depending on what’s happening on-screen.
And peckish movie-goers can choose snacks from a menu devised by Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes, according to the mall’s website.
Meanwhile, other entertainment options at the mall are also still under-construction and are eyeing a summer launch.
This includes an Angry Birds theme park, which will feature a trampoline park, indoor and outdoor go-karting track, a drop-tower and water rapids.
There will also be a 4,800 sq meter snow park with “snow dunes,” with slides and sledging; and a gaming center called Virtuosity, which is aimed at teens and adults.
Eating and drinking
Ultimately, there will be around 100 F&B outlets in the mall, although many of these have yet to open.
Hoardings are still around what will be Qatar’s first Five Guys, as well as outlets including Le Pain Quotidien, 800 Degrees Pizza, The Cheesecake Factory and Katsuya.
Many of the outlets in one of what will be two food courts could be seen preparing to open in the coming days. These include fast-food favorites McDonalds, KFC, Shater Abbas and Pizza Hut.
Additionally, there’s Koushari and More, which offers popular Egyptian snacks, while sweet-toothed shoppers can satiate their cravings at Wafflemeister.
Some eateries are using workarounds to serve customers during the launch.
For example, a member of staff at Carluccios said there was no gas connection to the mall yet, and so the restaurant was offering a reduced menu in the interim.
Meanwhile, banks and ATMS have not yet opened.
And some stores were also having teething problems with their debit/credit card machines.
The mall will eventually have five pharmacies, but none were open yesterday.
There are also spacious baby feeding and changing facilities in the ladies’ toilets.
DFC is open Sunday to Wednesday, 10am until 10pm; and Thursday to Saturday, 10am to midnight. Monoprix will open daily 9am until midnight. Outlets will close for Friday prayers.