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Closeup Front Sidra View


The much-delayed Sidra Medical and Research Center, which is focused on the care of women and children, is now aiming to be fully open to patients by 2015, spokesman Khalid Al Mohannadi has told Doha News.

The development, billed as “an ultramodern academic medical center,” was originally slated to open in 2011, and then postponed until the end of last year.

Sidra is funded by a Qatar Foundation cash endowment of $7.9 billion, the world’s largest endowment for a medical and research center.

Yesterday, QF’s new president, Saad al Muhannadi, spoke of a 2015 opening, defending the delay by saying, as reported by the Peninsula:

“A hospital is not a building, it includes services, facilities and equipment and everything should be ready for opening. Services at the Sidra are planned to be very innovative.”

Although staff recruitment has been ongoing for many months, this is the first time the hospital has committed publicly to an opening schedule since missing the 2012 deadline.

There have been hurdles, including the fact that Sidra lost its underground carpark to a fire earlier this year.

But according to spokesman Al Mohannadi, the hospital is expected to undergo a testing phase in 2014, by which time it will be fully equipped.

He added that Sidra is juggling multiple variables:

“Many factors, including conducting a proper facility commissioning, operational commissioning and most importantly, the availability of the required medical staff and specialists need to be taken into account. We are aiming to be fully operational by 2015.”

Research center

Located opposite Education City and adjacent to the Qatar National Convention Center and Qatar Science and Technology Park, Sidra aims to provide “a new standard” of healthcare to women and children alongside medical training and research.

It will initially have around 400 beds, with plans to expand to 550 beds as need grows. This extra capacity should help ease some of the strain on the country’s overcrowded public hospitals.

Although the hospital isn’t open yet, Sidra has begun hosting focus groups and conferences to discuss women’s health issues, including breastfeeding and gestational diabetes.

It has also been establishing relationships with international institutions to create a cell therapy facility and a genetic research center.

Two years ago, Sidra was the focus of a Wikileaks release, with a diplomatic cable showing that in 2008, Qatar had asked oil companies for a $1 billion donation for the center.


Credit: Image courtesy of Sidra


The regional head of Bechtel, the main contractor that is building Doha’s new airport, has claimed that its work there is “virtually complete,” and that it could be “ready any time” its client – Qatar Airways – chooses to open it.

In an interview with Construction Week, David Welch, Bechtel’s EMEA President, said:

“The start-up teams are operating, the contractors working on our portion of the scope are finishing up their punch lists very rapidly. The client would need to decide when they want to open it, but it will be ready any time they wish to do that.”

Welch’s comments come weeks after a recent announcement by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, announcing yet another delay to the project.

Qatar Airways confirms that HIA is now scheduled to open early next year, rather than at the end of 2013 as had recently been promised. No exact opening date in 2014 has been announced.

Bechtel blamed

HIA, a $15.5 billion airport project, was originally slated for completion in 2009. Two official opening dates have come and gone in the last two years: Dec. 12, 2012 (12/12/12), and April 1, 2013.

When the airport’s April 1, 2013 opening date was canceled at the eleventh hour, Qatar Airways blamed Bechtel for its failure to meet safety requirements, causing the airport to fail Civil Defense checks.

It’s understood that extensive remedial work has now been carried out at the airport to allow it to pass the tests.

Welch told Construction Week that “it (the airport) is going through the certification process with the authorities”, suggesting that these checks are currently being re-run.

Bechtel is not the only contractor to come under fire. Last week, Lindner Depa Interior (LDI), a German/Emirati interior design company, launched a lawsuit against HIA over the termination of its contract last year.

Qatar Airways claims that LDI did not complete a $245 million construction of 19 airport lounges, “seriously affecting the airline’s expansion plans, causing huge revenue losses, increased construction costs and delay penalties, and more importantly, inconveniencing passengers.”

Qatar Airways has declined to comment on Welch’s remarks, and Bechtel and the HDIA steering committee have yet to respond to requests from Doha News for comment.


Credit: Image courtesy of HDIA


Eager shoppers made a strong showing this morning as hundreds of people turned out at the long-awaited opening of Qatar’s first IKEA.

Despite some concerns – and historical challenges to crowd control at IKEA openings – all was orderly this morning. The store provided seats to early arrivals, and queued guests up before the doors actually opened to the public around noon.

Although some shoppers were frustrated at having to wait – both outside this morning and for three months longer than originally announced – many were simply eager to get first dibs on the shop’s stock.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Patricia, a Scottish expat who spoke to Doha News before the doors opened. “I had to drive up here because I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it. I’ve actually cleared space in my home before coming here today, to make room for the furniture I’m going to buy.”

Others, however, were confused by a change of the opening time – from 10am to 12pm – which was made after IKEA announced that Sheikh Khalifa Bin Jassim Al Thani, Chairman of Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce, would be attending the morning media and VIP event.


Some shoppers got their first look inside the store last Thursday, with an invite-only trial runMedia were given a tour this morning as part of the opening ceremony, which included a traditional Swedish “log cutting” ceremony (pictured above).

IKEA’s Regional Managing Director John Kersten spoke to the press, explaining that the store has been specially tailored to the needs of Qatar’s residents: 

“We’ve been examining the local market for more than a year. We’ve investigated 50 homes here in Qatar, and tried to make changes to the store to reflect local culture.

We know, for example, that most bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms here, so we’ve made changes to our room displays to reflect that.”


Many shoppers arrived long before the store opened its doors this morning.

One such shopper was Maysaa from Jordan, who was waiting in the store’s ground floor car park with her mother and baby daughter. She had arrived soon after 10am, guided by an announcement on the store’s website last week, and had been in the queue for at least an hour when we met her.

Events website ToDoToGo also tweeted about the frustration of the waiting crowd outside the store: 

Extra staff

Although some shoppers reported “confused” parking arrangements, spaces were still available when we left just after midday. 

It’s clear that IKEA has brought in extra staff to cope with high demand  – we counted about 20 members of staff guiding us into the car park alone.

The warehouse also appeared to be fully stocked, although it remains to be seen whether IKEA’s supply chain will be able to keep up with demand.


The store will be open from 10am to 10pm Sunday to Wednesday, and 10am to midnight, Thursday to Saturday. 

Are you excited about the opening, or not sure what the fuss is all about?

Credit: Photos by Teilhard Scott