Longing, nostalgia and memories are all feelings now left frozen at City Centre’s skating arena.
It is the early 2000’s in Qatar. You are sitting on your classroom’s carpet for story time when your teacher then surprises you with permission slips for your end of term field trip.
Filled with excitement, you find out that you are going to City Centre’s Winter Wonderland. Immediately, when you get home, you give your parents the form and run towards your cupboard to take out a jacket for your trip.
Memories from the City Centre ice rink can go back to school field trips, weekend visits and an open space to learn how to ice skate.
“It was kind of a landmark that I always associated with growing up in Qatar,” said Farah Al Sharif, 21, who visited the ice rink for the first time around the age of seven. “It was a physical manifestation of my childhood, it was just something that felt really important to me.”
Recently, the ice rink came back to public attention when images and videos emerged online showing an entire golf course occupying the site of the formerly popular ice rink.
Like Al Sharif, many people who grew up in Doha were shocked to see the epitome of their upbringing in Qatar disappear without notice.
But for frequent visitor Noor Mohammad, this was merely a passing of the baton.
“I felt a bit saddened by the news but when I saw that it was replaced with a jungle gym, I felt as if I, and the rest of my generation, had given the scepter to the younger generation. It’s like giving them the responsibility to utilise the same space to make their childhood memories,” the 26-year-old told Doha News.
Recalling her childhood memories, Mohammad used to visit Winter Wonderland after every Friday prayer with her father and sister. It was here where they would unleash all the excitement built up during a long week at school.
The place also holds unique sentimental value to non-frequent visitors, like Ramez Bodair, 23, who says the ice rink offers fond memories with his loved ones.
Bodair went to the ice rink with his friends to gain ice skating experience, he says, noting he spent most of the time holding onto the bench framing the area with little skating involved.
“I would consider it [his visits] one of the unique experiences I’ve had in my childhood,” said Bodair. “I wouldn’t mind re-experiencing my horrible skating skills again there if I have the opportunity.”
Doha News went to discover the new area covering the ice rink, which is now a temporary golf course that is also closed due to current COVID-19 restrictions.
A City Centre employee who spoke to Doha News said the ice rink has not been shut down nor deconstructed, suggesting the new golf course is part of new efforts to introduce new activities to the scene.
Despite this, news of its closure has dampened moods.
“I would go back there…I always thought of going back and skating there for the sake of nostalgia, but I never got around to it,” said Al Sharif.
Winter Wonderland has been open since City Centre – one of the oldest shopping destinations in Qatar – opened in 2001.
Even before Ezdan Mall, Mall of Qatar and Doha Festival City were built, City Centre played a significant role in the upbringing of those raised in the Gulf state.
Since then, numerous malls have sprouted up across Qatar.
But until it opens again, people like Al Sharif, Mohammad and Bodair, will hold onto their memories with hopes that the future generations will appreciate the new spaces they have.
“Whatever that physical space is, whether it being an ice rink or a jungle gym, I feel happy knowing children in this generation will physically go out, play and have a good time other than sticking to their electronics,” said Mohammad.