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Doha Festival City

The entrance to the mall

With reporting from Amanda Ramirez

With just weeks to go before its April 5 soft opening, the massive Doha Festival City (DFC) opened its doors to journalists yesterday for a sneak peek.

While there, officials also revealed further details about some of the QR6 billion mall’s upcoming theme parks.

Located off of Al Shamal Road next to IKEA, DFC has seen months of delays. It will eventually host over 500 stores, including some 100 food and beverage outlets.

Amanda Ramirez

Doha Festival City pre-opening tour

But not all of them will be opening soon. Here’s what you need to know about Qatar’s newest shopping destination:

Hello Five Guys

According to the Gulf Times, DFC general manager Trevor Hill said nearly 50 percent of the mall’s retail outlets and most of its food and beverage offerings will open next month.

That includes Qatar’s first Five Guys, a popular American hotdog and hamburger chain that already has outlets in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Five Guys / Facebook

Typical Five Guys fare

Many of the other food outlets at the mall were still covered with generic hoardings yesterday.

But according to DFC’s website, they will include Dean and Deluca, the Hummingbird Bakery and PF Chang’s.

Doha Festival City pre-opening tour

Shops-wise, Marks and Spencer, H&M, Home Center, Mac, Sephora, Carter’s, The Body Shop and Pottery Barn all appear to be almost ready to open.

The mall will also be the site of the world’s largest Monoprix, featuring a “Cave à Fromage” – which is sure to be a hit with cheese lovers.

And also coming soon is Qatar’s first Harvey Nichols, the London-based luxury department store.

Additionally, an Ace Hardware outlet remains under construction.

Angry Birds fun

DFC has several theme parks opening this year, but visitors will need to wait a few more months to check them out.

For example, officials said they are aiming for a summer launch for the Angry Birds adventure park.

Nathan Rupert/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It is the first of its kind in the Gulf, and attractions will include the largest trampoline park in Qatar.

A largest indoor and outdoor go-karting track in the region, a drop tower, reverse bungee slingshot and water rapids are also planned, officials said.

Snow adventures

Also expected to open this summer is Qatar’s first ski slope.

Doha Festival City website

An artist’s impression of the Snow Dunes attraction

Snow Dunes – billed as an “Arabian-themed snow park” – will feature over 4,800 sq meters of real snow in a -4C environment all year round.

The attraction will also boast a “snow castle” as well as slides, slopes and sleds, officials said.

Virtual fun

One more main feature of DFC that’s opening this summer is “Virtuocity,” which is a gaming space specifically for older teens (15+) and adults.

Doha Festival City website

How Virtuocity should look when it opens in the summer

The venue will include a 200-seat viewing and competing hub equipped with the latest PC, PlayStation and Xbox One hardware.

Virtuocity will also have five VIP lounges where up to 10 people will be able to complete simultaneously on the advanced Racer simulators.

Additionally, there will be four themed escape rooms where participants  will have just 60 minutes to break out using problem-solving skills.

Get those steps in

During the country’s hottest months, the mall might be a good destination for exercise as well as shopping.

Amanda Ramirez

Doha Festival City pre-opening tour

It’s 1km long inside, and there’s also a 3km “Outdoor Leisure Trail” surrounding the mall for runners and cyclists.

The mountain bike track, designed by British company Architrail, offers various surfaces with inbuilt gradients and obstacles to suit all abilities of mountain bikers.

And the running track has exercise machines installed along the route.

Doha Festival City

The Outdoor Leisure Trail

Parking-wise, there will be 8,000 spaces across four floors, with 29 different entry points into the mall.

And it should be fairly straightforward to get to the mall from Doha, thanks to the recent opening of the Al Kharaitiyat Interchange on Al Shamal Road.

The complex is expected to be fully open by September, officials pledged.

Do you plan to check it out? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Doha Sooq

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Hoping to save residents the headache of battling traffic, navigating a busy grocery store and juggling multiple shopping bags at once, a new online supermarket and home delivery service has launched in Qatar.

E-commerce site Doha Sooq has teamed up with grocery chain Grand Mart to launch the website, which debuted last month.

In a statement, Mohamed Intiqab Rawoof, manager of the IT group of Grand Mart, said:

“People always shop. It doesn’t stop. We are here to make their experience better and the online supermarket is designed and implemented to provide a seamless shopping experience.

People are changing their buying habits. From retail stores to online shopping carts, it’s only a matter of time before the online shopping store becomes a popular option among consumers in Qatar.”

Items for sale includes fashion, jewelry, gifts and electronics in addition to fresh and packaged food.

Doha Sooq now sells 4,000 items, 475 of which are food goods.

This is set to more than double with 2,500 separate food lines in the coming month, a website official told Doha News.

The new site will join a number of other online grocery ordering services that have launched in Qatar in recent years, including eGrab, which started as an app last August, and FreshQatar, which provides online shopping and delivery to select areas inside Doha, although with a minimum order of QR100.

There is also the app Baqaala, currently available on Android, where customers can order groceries from local mini-markets or supermarkets, and get them delivered to their home in 30 minutes, its website says.

How it works

With Doha Sooq, customers can register their details, then get shopping.

The orders are compiled by Grand Mart staff, who check to ensure that all products have valid expiry dates and are of good quality, Hussain Mohammed Hasan, E-commerce specialist at Doha Sooq, said.

Speaking to Doha News, he added:

“We are adding new products daily to the site. By one month’s time, we will have 10,000 products for sale.

Grand Mart staff will check every order before it goes out, and all deliveries will be made in their refrigerated vans.”

The online system should highlight stock levels. If an item turns out to be out of stock after ordering, Grand Mart staff would call the customer to ask if they would like an alternative item or a refund.

Customers can pay by credit or debit card online. A cash-on-delivery option is planned to launch “soon.” For the launch period, customers can get a 2.5 percent discount on their total bill, Hasan said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Tim Reckmann/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

At check-out, shoppers can also choose their preferred delivery slot. Orders worth more than QR50 have free delivery, while those less than that have a QR15 delivery charge.

The site organizers aim for same-day delivery – with a four-hour target from ordering, although orders made after 8pm will be delivered the following morning.

“This is for customers’ convenience, and to give Grand Mart greater visibility in the market. In our research, everyone told us about problems with traffic, with parking. Shopping online is much more convenience and easier,” Hasan added.

Slow take-up

While already very popular in some countries, online shopping – especially for food – has yet to really take off in Qatar.

A number of supermarkets have been talking about launching such services in Qatar, but this has yet to take place.

Lulu has online shopping and delivery in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but Qatar-based customers can’t use its website for home delivery yet.

Instead, they can order and pay online, and collect the food order at Lulu Express in Education City.

Speaking to Doha News, a representative for the hypermarket chain said they hoped to launch a full online food ordering and delivery service in Qatar “soon.”

Other supermarkets, such as Spinneys and Geant, have online food shopping systems for other countries in the Middle East, but not yet in Qatar.

Would you use an online food shopping and delivery service? Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Osarieme Eweka/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Wealthy Qatar residents spent an average of US$4,000 a month on luxury goods and experiences last year – twice that of their regional peers, according to results of a new survey of spending habits in the Middle East.

Falling oil prices and government belt-tightening inside of Qatar have led to hundreds of job losses here, but hasn’t stopped more affluent citizens and residents from enjoying the finer things in life, American Express Middle East said.

That said, a quarter of people surveyed within Qatar confirmed they did cut back on spending last year.

Qatar’s average spend on high-end items and services was the most out of the five Gulf countries (UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain) surveyed for the latest edition of the company’s Spending Survey.

Spending jumps

The report was carried out by Germany-based market researchers GfK, and Saudi Arabia was not included.

Qatar residents spent around 12 percent of their average household monthly income on luxury goods and services last year. The $4,000 figure is considerably higher than the $2,500 spent each month in 2014, Bloomberg reported.

Across the region, a total of 430 residents and citizens who had annual household incomes of $75,000 or more took part in the survey, which was conducted between November and December 2015.

All had been residents of their respective Gulf countries for at least one year.

Some 41 percent of households surveyed spent between $1,001 and $5,000 a month on luxuries, while just under a third spent more than $5,000 monthly on such items/services.

Just one percent said they spent less than $250 each month on nice-to-haves, Gulf Times reported.

Mazin Khoury, Chief Executive Officer, American Express Middle East said only around a quarter of people in Qatar reduced spending last year.

“Around 76 percent of the respondents from Qatar did not cut back spending in 2015. They spent more than planned or the same amount while just 24 percent cut back their spending,” the Peninsula reported him as saying.

Changing habits

However, some habits have changed. Around one quarter (26 percent) of people in Qatar said they spent less on eating out last year, while nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said they spent more on food and drink at home.

Residents in other Gulf states appeared to be more frugal, as 41 percent of those in Oman cut back spending on socializing, while more than half (55 percent) of people in Kuwait did the same last year.

Looking forward, many Qatar residents said that while they don’t plan to spend less overall, they are expecting to change up their purchases.

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Westin Doha Hotel & Spa

For illustrative purposes only

Around one quarter (24 percent) said they would spend more on personal wellness at the expense of dining out, while 42 percent said they would spend less on savings and pensions, Gulf Times added, quoting Khoury.

Spending on experiences, such as holidays, spa visits, eating out, hobbies and sports is still favored over buying tangible items such as jewelry, watches, clothes, cars and electronics.

Just over half (53 percent) of those surveyed said they would be spending their extra income on experiences, while 47 percent said they would like to buy goods, in line with trends across the region.

This is down from 2014, when 70 percent of those polled in Qatar in the same survey said they would opt for high-end experiences over buying “stuff.”

Rising cost of living

The survey results come as official statistics show that Qatar is an increasingly expensive place for living.

Consumer prices in February were up more than 3 percent on the same month last year, primarily driven by a 9 percent jump in the cost of recreation and cultural activities since February 2014.

Meanwhile, residential rental rates continue to rise, despite an increase in vacancies.

Do you plan to spend less this year? Thoughts?