Qatar’s malls are proving to be a hotspot this Eid al-Fitr, drawing thousands of visitors on the first and second days of the holiday.
Due to the hot, dusty weather (windspeed reached nearly 60km/hour yesterday) and the cancelation of some events at Souq Waqif, Heritage Village and Katara, many residents have found themselves spending more time at the indoor shopping centers.
The Qatar Tourism Authority has helped organize a host of activities at City Center, Landmark, The Mall, Hyatt Plaza, Al Khor Mall and Lagoona Mall.
At City Center, Qatar’s largest mall, crowds gathering to watch the shows have reached as many as 3,500 people, according to director Joerg Harengerd.
Speaking to Doha News, he said:
“We’re very happy with this year’s events. There’s a variety of shows and everything is organized. We have the biggest stage out of all the malls, and this year we have improved our set-up by using the whole ice rink as the stage. Previously we only used half.
We have also extended our seating area so that 500 people can sit and watch the show and of course, thousands watch from all different levels of the mall. The ice rink in the center of the mall is the perfect location.”
Crowds were also reported at Villaggio Mall, and Ezdan Mall has also been holding Eid activities for families:
— Ezdan Mall (@EzdanMall) July 29, 2014
Not all according to plan
The crowding at malls has resulted in some inconveniences. Elevators were hard to come by at City Center mall, and taxi queues at many shopping centers were long, although state transport company Mowasalat said it has upped the number of cabs and buses on the roads to keep up with the holiday rush.
The company also said it’s extended its working hours in operation rooms to ensure drivers’ shifts are smooth and quick.
Additionally, not all malls are following the online schedule promising evening shows for children and families until Aug. 3.
At Landmark mall for example, no shows were performed past 7pm last night.
A security guard watching over the stage and equipment told Doha News that performances had finished for the day, though he was not sure why. The program was technically supposed to go until 9:30pm.
Regardless, the mall was still full of energy from the masses of families in high Eid spirits.
Meanwhile, at Lagoona mall last night, Angry Birds characters shook hands with children, as a German performer rode on a unicycle while juggling knives and eating an apple at the same time.
According to the mall schedule, performances vary, including children’s favorites Doha the Explorer, Beauty and the Beast and Angry Birds. There are also magic shows, Oud playing and hip-hop dancing.
Local hip-hop group, Mighty Jokerz, is one of the acts who performed for Eid last year and is also taking part this year.
Speaking to Doha News, Abdallah Omar, a member of the group, said:
“Eid this year is definitely far busier than last year at the malls. During the evening it gets to the stage where it’s difficult to walk. You find yourself taking baby steps and weaving in and out of people. The support from the crowd is more than ever. There’s just a great vibe throughout the evening.”
Attracting more visitors to Qatar is QTA’s plan this Eid, as part of its long-term strategy to help diversify Qatar’s economy away from oil and gas with tourism dollars.
The authority has promised a seven-day holiday extravaganza that would woo Gulf tourists to the country and also entertain those who are staying in the country over the holiday.
Besides malls, residents also appear to be turning out in full force at Qatar beaches and parks:
— ILoveQatar – Live (@ILQLive) July 29, 2014
Last year’s seven-day Eid Festival saw more than 75,000 people visiting Qatar.
This year, although a number of activities have been cancelled, festivities are in full-swing. And if malls are anything to go by, the number of tourists and residents partaking in Eid activities this year will likely be higher than before.
How have you found the entertainment at the malls this year? Thoughts?