Dismay expressed at plans to turn Al Messila woods into luxury resort

Artists’ impressions of the Al Messila resort and spa via Salfo & Associates

Plans to develop a five-star hotel and spa complex in central Doha on a site that contains natural woods have been met with protests from some Qatar residents.

Construction for the Al Messila Hotel and VVIP Spa Resort is taking place at an area dubbed “Al Messila forest,” which features hundreds of indigenous trees and sits alongside the Doha Expressway, opposite the US Embassy.

According to Qatari environmental activist Khalid Al Mohannadi, work on the site began earlier this year, and at least 600 trees have been dug up to prepare the ground for the luxury retreat.

tree roots

Khalid Al Mohannadi/Twitter

He said the copse included some 1,100 trees and has been there for more than 50 years. It continued to grow after its life as a plant nursery, and became home to an ecosystem of birds and other wildlife.

However, the engineering consultants responsible for the development of the site said that they are protecting all the trees in on-site nursery, and the foliage will be re-planted once the resort is completed.

In a statement sent to Doha News, Omar Farid, senior architect for regional firm Unii Engineering Consultancy, said:

“Environmental aspects have been deeply considered in the form of environmental reports, treatments and vegetation preservation.

A tree nursery is available on-site and none of the trees have been abolished, as a matter of fact, they have been saved as a big percentage had their roots exposed. They will then be transplanted to be part of the hotel’s landscape.”

However, a statement on Unii’s website about the trees is more flexible, saying, “It is envisaged where possible the majority of the existing tree shall be retained for reuse.”

Farid declined to discuss the timetable of the project, referring questions to the owners of the site of the hotel and spa, the Private Engineering Office. The PEO is a government agency that is responsible for a number of significant development projects around Qatar, including the now-shelved Doha Grand Park.

It could not be reached for comment.

Resort plans

Both Unii Engineering and Greek engineering and management consultants Salfo & Associates, who are responsible for the structural and MEP design and engineering, have posted plans for the new development on their websites.

aerial map

Khalid Al Mohannadi/Twitter

The 132,000sqm site will include 50,000sqm of built-up area, including a five-star hotel, spa and villas – with the aim of being Qatar’s largest and most luxurious spa, according to Salfo.

Unii describes the development as being influenced by Moroccan architecture and style. It states that the hotel will include 60 bedrooms, presidential suites and royal suites. It added that the resort will sit amid formal gardens through which a number of villas will be situated.

Al Mohannadi told Doha News that he was opposed to the development of the site into a luxury retreat, arguing that the long-standing natural site should be preserved and opened to the public as an environmental and education center.

He said: “I am skeptical that all the trees will be replanted into the new site. If you look at the plans, the area just isn’t big enough.”

Al Mohannadi also said that the residential area was the wrong location for a luxury development of this nature. He continued:

“We have been talking with the developers and ministries and gave them a plan to create an urban wilderness there – like a botanical garden, with walkways between the trees and seats for families to enjoy the green space.

“There is no place in Doha for our children to go to. It is a God-given natural place and we should look after it,” he said.

Online opposition

As his appeals fell on deaf ears and development of the site has started, Al Mohannadi says he is now asking to residents to take to social media to voice their opposition to the plans.

The response on Twitter so far appears supportive of the idea of preserving the trees, and a new hashtag #غابة_المسيلة (Almessila forest) has popped up to that effect.

Thoughts?

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