All photos by Reem Saad
Saeed Al-Mohannadi has been a vociferous comic book reader and collector since he was a kid. But feeding that habit while growing up in his native country of Qatar was tough.
Now 26 years old, Al-Mohannadi is the founder of Qatar’s first comic book store, which soft-launched over the weekend.
Speaking to Doha News, he explained: “Doha never had a place that gave (me) my fix for comic books. So I decided (with a few friends) to create that place.”
The store is located inside the Pearl-Qatar’s Qanat Quartier neighborhood, and is currently open from 4pm to 10pm daily.
On Instagram, Doha Comics describes itself as a new “pop-culture specialty store” that has a “never-ending stock of comics.”
It carries mostly trade paperbacks and Japanese comic books (manga).
But it also sells related items such as collectible action figures, artwork, accessories like keychains and mugs, posters and clothing.
“We have about 1,500 comic books on display at the moment, with hundreds more on the way,” Al-Mohannadi said.
Prices for the books start at QR40, he added.
Comic book culture
Doha Comics isn’t the first store in Qatar to carry certain types of comic books.
In 2014, the country’s first anime and manga toy shop, Hobby Chan, received a warm welcome from residents.
This was in part because the newlywed owners put a face on a growing local subculture of video game and anime enthusiasts.
According to Al-Mohannadi, however, his store is different in that its main focus revolves around comic books and comic book culture.
Like any business in Qatar that sells books, Doha Comics faces importing restrictions.
Qatar’s culture ministry has the final say on which publications can enter and be sold in the country.
It has in the past rejected content dubbed questionable to the nation’s traditions and values.
Arduous regulations are one reason why the store cannot offer the latest weekly releases of comic books in a timely fashion, Al-Mohannadi said.
“We do appreciate the efforts and challenges being faced by local authorities to balance conserving the fabric of local culture whilst trying to edge forward with the vision put in place for the future — though the process can sometimes feel extensive.”
How ministry rules will affect the store’s business in the future remains to be seen.
The comic book store is one of two dozen new restaurants and shops that have opened at the Pearl-Qatar in recent months.
Last week, island operator UDC announced that some 300 retailers are now operating on the Pearl.
It added that over 10 million vehicles have visited the island over the past year.
The increase comes despite the fact that there’s only one road linking the Pearl to the rest of Doha, which can make it difficult for motorists to leave during peak traffic times.
Residents have previously expressed concerns about the safety and security implications of having just one exit point.
Developers pledged last fall to look into building a new access road to get on and off the island.
But UDC made no mention of this in its latest statement, and did not respond to requests for an update on the subject.