From street eats to gourmet dishes, Qatar food fest courts diverse crowd

All photos by Chantelle D’mello

From fine dining in the sky to hot-fried churros and freshly prepared shellfish, the sixth annual Qatar International Food Festival, which opened Tuesday, has so far drawn several thousand people to the Museum of Islamic Art Park.

The event, a celebration of both street food and gourmet cuisine in Qatar, is spread over several zones, each serving different types of food and hosting various activities.

Qatar International Food Fest 2015

Chantelle D'mello

Qatar International Food Fest 2015

There are two entertainment zones at opposite ends of the park, encompassing a stage where acrobatic and dance performances take place at intervals, and a kids’ play zone with playground rides and inflatables.

Interspersed between the two zones, and bordering a large tabled seating area, are booths of several of Qatar’s most prestigious and popular hotels.

Residents can choose from fresh pasta and sushi prepared by the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels to fresh seafood by the newly-renovated Sheraton Doha Hotel booth, or an Asian-fusion inspired spread by the Doha Marriott chefs, at discounted rates of between QR10 to QR25 a dish.

New additions

Elsewhere, a new “Instagram zone” showcases a handful of predominantly Qatar-inspired treats by emerging female chefs running small businesses.

For many of these owners, the festival has given them access to a much broader audience, beyond those who place orders on Instagram.

Fireworks at Qatar International Food Fest 2015

KN Morada/Flickr

Fireworks at Qatar International Food Fest 2015

In addition to food, several of the stalls are also selling merchandise like mugs, phone covers, and other small trinkets.

There are several new additions to this year’s festival, including a double-decked high tea lounge by one of Doha’s newest hotels – the Kempinski Marsa Malaz, which recently opened at the Pearl-Qatar.

Elsewhere, festival first-timer Mr. Taco is offering authentic Mexican delicacies like freshly prepared empanadas and a Qatari-inspired taco-shawarma hybrid at its seafront stall.

For the first time, there are also daily firework shows, which will be held at 8:30pm on Thursday and Friday and 9:30pm on Saturday.

Hot spots

Other popular attractions include a large live cooking station and a water zone, where people can dine in inflatable “donuts” or eat while cruising in a dhow.

For those looking for healthier options, Raw ME, a new juice and smoothie based detox company provides a nutritious palate-cleanser between courses.

Near the kids’ zone, the Sahtak Awalan initiative by the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar also offers several healthy recipes at their food truck, complete with plant beds and an exercise selfie station.

Qatar International Food Fest 2015

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Qatar International Food Fest 2015

Several internationally certified organic vegetables are also on sale at the Al Safwa Farm station, while bee pollen, a substance dubbed a new “superfood,” is available at reduced prices at the Bosaif Cafe’s stall.

Residents can also get traditional Indian lac bangles made at the Royal Tandoor stall, where Mohammed Aslam Maniyar, a popular bangle-maker and Souq Waqif staple is stationed.

The weather does get a bit chilly as the sun goes down, so bring a shawl along to cover up against the cool seaside breeze. Meteorologists are also forecasting rain tonight and tomorrow morning, so consider bringing an umbrella.

The festival runs from 1 to 10:30pm daily through Saturday, March 28. For more information about parking and other details, visit our festival guide here.

Who’s going? Thoughts?

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