Katara: Doha’s cultural village and international tourist attraction
Katara Cultural Village is considered to be the principal cultural destination in Qatar. In an exclusive interview with The Edge’s Sanae Bougria, Katara’s general manager Dr. Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti discusses the various aspects of Katara and its efforts to introduce the country’s cultural traditions to the world and its dedication towards the objectives of Qatar National Vision 2030.
Katara Cultural Village GM Dr. Khalid bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti (second from left) and the Kuwaiti ambassador in Doha HE Metyeb Saleh Al Mutotah along with other dignitaries at the launch of the fifth annual Halal Festival 2016 organised by the Cultural Village Foundation-Katara. (Image Katara)
Situated adjacent to the business metropolis of West Bay in Doha, Katara has become a prominent cultural landmark for tourists in Qatar and an enjoyable recreational location for its residents. The institution is arguably playing a crucial role in introducing Qatari culture and traditions to the world through its many varied events and activities.
Katara’s track record of well-executed events is impressive and its contribution to Qatar’s cultural legacy obvious. As such this cultural entity is both an intellectual and financial investment toward the future of the country and the region and often no expense has been spared to ensure its success. However, this could lead one to wonder whether the recent decline in oil price has led to any changes in its ambitions.
Katara Mall Plaza is expected to open in the first quarter of 2017.
Here, Katara’s general manager Dr. Khalid Bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti provides an emphatic answer: “Katara is continuing to execute its scheduled plans and we can confirm that the current economic situation is not affecting Katara’s efficiency. Our series of meticulously scheduled and high-standard activities are proof of this”.
Katara’s work plan, adds Dr. Al Sulaiti, has been formulated to mirror the pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030. “The Katara Culture Village draws its goals from the Qatar National Vision,” he says, “which aims to turn Qatar into an advanced country, capable of achieving sustainable development, in addition to preserving the national cultural heritage and promoting Arabic and Islamic identity and values.
“Katara’s strategic projects and its cultural and investments programmes are all complementary and combine to serve cultural, economic and social aims under the Qatar National Vision 2030,” he adds.
Katara Cultural Village announced in 2014 that it would adopt a five-year strategy, ending in 2018, with the aim of evolving itself into a cultural institution that is also economically viable, with revenue generating projects such as Katara Mall Plaza and various restaurants for example.
Their plan aims to transform the workforce – which moreover has undergone a Qatarisation process whereby more than 70 percent of Katara employees are now nationals according to Dr. Al Sulaiti – to universally accepted and world-class standards and programmes.
“Katara is continuing to execute its scheduled plans and we can confirm that the current economic situation is not affecting Katara’s efficiency.” - Katara’s general manager Dr. Khalid Bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti
Another of Katara’s aims, explains Dr. Al Sulaiti, is to build bridges of communication, linking cultures and people – the Cultural Village seeks partnerships within a vast network worldwide in order to ensure the success of its events and activities. Katara chose its present collaborators carefully, for whom Dr. Al Sulaiti has nothing but praise. “We have strategic partners who I can only thank for their support”, he says, “in meeting our goals and vision, seek varied partnerships with local and international institutions that reflect our cultural and humanitarian message.”
Case in point, one of these partners, Dr. Al Sulaiti tells The Edge is the Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD) who are working together with Katara with the aim of promoting and developing the concept of sustainability in the urban area through workshops and training for the personnel, and also cooperating in the area of scientific research which plays a great role in directing the architectural rise currently happening in Qatar.
Katara, he adds, also places great importance on the development of the potential and the capacities of Qatar’s youth through its partnerships, such as its relationship with the International Public Relations Association-Gulf Chapter, whereby there is a focus on bringing millennials in direct contact with the cultural renaissance that is currently in full swing in Qatar.
Within this realm, Katara has also renewed its agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), says Dr. Al Sulaiti, “in order to be a part of a greater number of international initiatives. Our partnerships usually include several ministries, local and international museums and organisations selected according to our cultural messages and our ambition to enrich the local scene.”
The variety of Katara events and activities is one of the key foundations of the Cultural Village. Dr. Sulaiti explains that Katara is intent on organising a number of exceptional events on a yearly basis, has already organised more than 170 events in 2015, providing a treat to the cultivated, creative and artistic Qatari natives and expatriate residents. The events were varied and included festivals, lectures, symposiums, activities, plays, exhibitions and musical shows.
“Katara gives great importance to the cultural heritage events, such as the traditional dhow festival and the Halal festival,” he added, “which aim to present a form of our heritage to the natives of our country or to the distinguished guests of other nationalities.”
The institution also works tirelessly to promote and endorse art and literature, having been the host of the first-ever Middle Eastern opera and classical music Oscars, Oscar de la Lirica. Katara’s important literature events must also be included, such as the awarding of the annual Katara Arabic novel prize, offered since 2014. Dr. Al Sulaiti stressed the importance of this prize, saying that it “aims to reinforce the status of Arabic novels in the Arabic world as well as internationally, in addition to encouraging and honouring creative Arabic writers.”
Katara also announced that it will collaborate with the Tunisian-based Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) to celebrate International Arabic Novel Day in order to emphasise the importance of Arabic literature and the continued efforts of Katara to endorse Arab novels and novelists, and to help them reach wider horizons, in the Arab region and the wider world.
Dr. Al Sulaiti also touches on the first ever Katara prize for the Prophet’s Poet, which first took place last April. “This prize aims to stress the importance of poetry and the Arabic language in uniting the Arabic nations,” he furthers, “as well as linking the youth to their Arabic identity and promoting efforts aimed at preserving their literary heritage and the Arabic language and highlighting the talent of aspiring poets.”
More than 828 poems were submitted from Arab and non-Arab countries. The prize was awarded to Omani poet Jamal Bin Abdullah Al Mulla for ‘The Prophet’. Al Mulla also received a prize of USD3000 (QAR10,921)
Katara’s Future Plans
In terms of its revenue-generating aspirations, Katara, points out Dr. Al Sulaiti, is making great strides in various projects designed to attract visitors to the destination and contribute to its financial independence. These include the Katara Mall Plaza, its fountains and Katara Hills. We are working on several new projects, which will occupy a significant space in the country’s culture,” he added. “They include a children’s mall, fitness centres and swimming pools.”
Most of these projects are in their final stages of execution, furthers the Katara general manager, and will be launched in the near future, cementing Katara’s position as what he terms, a full-fledged international destination.”
Katara Plaza, Dr. Al Sulaiti then reveals to The Edge exclusively, will be opened during the first quarter of 2017. The outstanding mall, set on a space of more than 38,000 square metres will include highly comfortable shopping spaces among the most popular brands, in the world. The mall will also include a large number of creative entertainment services, and comprise an extensive air-conditioned space, both outdoors and indoors, in the aim of ensuring visitors’ comfort. Katara Mall Plaza will also employ an innovative floor cooling system, making it the perfect combination of artistic architecture, innovation and comfort.
“We seek worldwide recognition for Katara Cultural Village’s through the quality of what is offered during our events.”
This attraction will help to increase the number of visitors which, says Dr. Al Sulaiti, reached nine million in 2014 alone.
In further defining Katara’s strategic formula to attract visitors, Dr. Al Sulaiti explains: “It’s in our definition of what a benefit is and what entertainment is, and for us, the first ensures the second. Katara’s visitors are lucky to be a part of the events, whether they be festivals or lectures, for Katara is a cultural tourism destination. Why, even the restaurants in Katara are an expression of the international culinary cultures from the East to the West. This applies to its many different facilities. As for the content that is presented, the Cultural Village ensures to offer continuingly varying content.”
As for future plans, the general manager states: “It is no secret that we seek Katara Cultural Village’s worldwide recognition through the quality of what is offered during our events. We are working continuously to ensure a high and varying artistic level, which has the purpose of attracting a varied public, in addition to seeking partnerships and agreements with several parties, on both the local and the international levels.
“We invite tourists to visit Katara to discover the limitless cultures of the world and the wonderful face of Qatar and the Arabic Gulf at large,” closes Dr. Al Sulaiti.