Katara Cultural Village is one of Doha’s premier attractions, with something to entertain both residents and visitors alike. Take a stroll with us as we explore the unique experience of Katara.

Katara sits on the waterfront along Lusail Street, just a few kilometres outside of Al Dafna. The project began some years ago under the direction of the Father Amir​, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Its aim is to position Qatar on the international, regional and local stage for art, music, theatre, photography and much more.

Some form of the name ‘Katara’ has long been used to represent Qatar. The country was first known as ‘Catara’, due to the map drawn by the geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus in 150 CE, published in 882 CE – 1477 CE and afterwards the Historical Atlas of Islam. It also gave the geographical location of the Qatar peninsula under the name of Catara, North West of Gerra or near it, and to the west of the town of Cadara.

‘Catara’ became ‘Katara’ after it appeared on the geographical and historical maps of the early 18th century, first depicted in a French map of the Arabian peninsula coastline, sea and gulf. It was decided to revive Qatar’s old name to maintain the connection to the country’s heritage.

Today, the multidimensional project brings together all the cultures of the world, with theatres, concert halls, exhibition and art galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. The project also adheres to the goals laid out in Qatar National Vision 2030, to preserve the heritage and traditions of the country while also embracing those of other nations.

Venues and Landmarks

Katara Amphitheatre

One landmark you cannot miss is the amphitheatre! Situated prominently in the middle of Katara, the building is an architectural masterpiece based on the classical Greek theatre with everlasting Islamic features. There is seating for 5,000 spectators, who over the years have been treated to many open-air concerts and film screenings. 

Just outside the ampitheatre heading towards the beach stands Lorenzo Quinn‘s The Force of Nature II. The impressive bronze, stainless steel and aluminium sculpture by contemporary Italian artist Quinn also appears in London and New York and is a piece created in the wake of the 2009 tsunami in the Pacific Ocean. It makes for a great photo opportunity.

The Force of Nature II

Look out for another visual masterpiece: Gandhi’s Three Monkeys by Subodh Gupta. Three sculptures show heads wearing military gear: one wears a gas mask, one with a soldier’s helmet, and the third with a terrorist’s hood. Each piece is made up of cooking instruments, buckets, traditional Indian lunch boxes and glass bowl, and are based on Gandhi’s famous visual metaphor – the three wise monkeys that ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’.

For music fans, the Opera House is home to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, a member of Qatar Foundation, as well as hosting other concerts. The orchestra performs and promotes Western and Arabic music with approximately 40 performances a year at the opulent Opera House, which blends modern architecture with traditional Islamic design. Details of concerts can be found in our Events Calendar in the Discovering Qatar section, and by visiting qatarphilharmonicorchestra.org and marhaba.qa

Katara also has an excellent drama theatre, with traditional Arabic architecture bringing a sense of being out in the open air to the stage. It is used for plays and film screenings, with separate space for receptions and functions before and after performances. There are also a number of halls and galleries available to use for conferences, seminars and exhibitions – Qatar Museums Gallery Katara often presents public art projects and is a good choice to browse art at the weekend. Events and exhibitions held so far have encompassed everything from the Arabian horse to traditional handicrafts and tech forums.

Designed by globally-known Turkish mosque designer, Zainab Fadil Oglu, Katara Masjid is one of the most beautiful in Qatar. The decorations of the Masjid (which means ‘mosque’) were designed by a team of restoration specialists from Dolma Palace in Istanbul. The outer surface is lavishly adorned with turquoise and purple mosaic. The interior and exterior architecture, together with the minaret, the dome, and the prayer niche (mihrab) are inspired by famous mosques in cities of the Muslim world. Ornaments, inscriptions, and mosaic tiles all add to the overall glamour.

Meanwhile the Golden Masjid is inlaid with tiny golden chips, representing the Ottoman style. Visitors are welcome to walk in and see for themselves the architectural wonder of these mosques. Both offer religious programmes and lectures delivered by prominent religious scholars, as well as courses in Quran memorisation for children of all ages. 

The Katara Publishing House has recently opened and will promote culture, knowledge and literature in Qatar. Every year a Qatari personality who has made important contributions in culture, literature or thought will be honoured as part of its ‘Litterateur Trophy.’ The inaugural award has been bestowed upon Dr Hassan Al Nama, a well-known Qatari writer, poet and diplomat. 

To date, Katara Publishing House has published over 100 books, including 60 novels in Arabic, English and French, on pearl diving, oud, falconry, pigeons, dhows, and Arab art, novel and literature, and there are plans to issue e-books and audio books in the future. Katara Publishing House can be found next to Building No 15, near the Amphitheatre Boulevard.

Playgrounds at the Katara Beach

It was recently announced that entry to Katara Beach is now free to all visitors, although there is still a fee for using the inflatable games. The 1.5 km beach is perfect for relaxing and looking across to The Pearl-Qatar or Al Dafna city skyline, or perhaps to partake in one of the many beach activities, such as parasailing or kneeboarding. 

A recent addition to the facilities available is the Katara Beach Club by LivNordic Spa & Wellness. This Nordic-inspired spa is gender separated over two floors with treatment rooms including their their signature snow room, saunas and salt rooms. The relaxation areas are inspired by the Aurora Borealis and even has a fireplace. Those using the gym and fitness studios will be treated to views of the private beach with cabanas and beach bags. For more information, call 4408 1580 or visit katara-livnordic.com.

And it goes without saying that any visitor to Katara cannot be anything other than wonderfully  surprised and impressed by the dedication taken to the landscaping. Huge swathes of greenery running around the periphery offer a tranquil and serene ambience, with plants, trees and lawns laid out in geometric shapes and styles reflecting the diversity of flora that have been brought in from different countries. 

Within Katara itself, trees have been planted in the courtyards and waterways course through the alleyways, adding to the architectural beauty. Alongside native trees such as the Sidra and Sadr, visitors can spot the Bombax from Southeast Asia and Australia, and the Washington palm from the US.

Continuing Development

Katara Plaza

The project continues to grow in both size and the amenities offered to the public. Phase IV, also known as the Southern Expansion Project and which began in 2016, will create an iconic and unique mixed-use development. A wide range of facilities will be available to complement those already offered, with 12 buildings and further parking spaces. The buildings will house a chain of restaurants and cafes, libraries, exhibition hall, cinema and other cultural centres. 

And for the first time in Qatar, the Southern Expansion Project will incorporate a state-of-the-art planetarium and astronomical observatory. Occupying an area of 2,240 sq m, the planetarium hall is the main component of the building, and will have seating for 200 people, including seating for the disabled and the elderly. It will feature a 22 m screen and be equipped with state-of-the-art digital projectors.

Meanwhile the Marina District is in its second phase and is finalising work on a maritime restaurant and eight marine chalets. Katara Plaza is also well underway, a 38,000 sq m luxury shopping complex blending traditional and modern architecture with technical innovation, offering retail outlets, office spaces, and serviced apartments. 

Katara Plaza will have the first Evian Spa in the Middle East – and only the second worldwide. It will also have the first dedicated children’s mall, easily identifiable as two buildings designed as gifts wrapped in red and gold. The entire plaza is constructed over two levels on top of the existing underground car parking. 

Also set for completion by the end of 2018, Katara Hills is a distinctive and eye-catching tourist destination. The project features gardens and green spaces, and is divided into Northern and Southern Hills that incorporate unique building design and recreational facilities. 

The gardens are set over 361,500 sq m and are designed to be aesthetically pleasing. There is an enormous diversity of plants and trees from different countries – as many as 3,300 trees have been planted – which are growing successfully in the somewhat challenging local environment. These gardens will fully complement the landscaping already in place within Katara.

At the Second Katara Oud Festival held in April, it was announced that plans were underway for the opening of a special centre for the oud (a musical instrument which looks like a lute or mandolin and which is played in Arab countries). The centre will play an important role in promoting the instrument and preserving its cultural heritage.

Look out for details of events and exhibitions at Katara by visiting katara.net and by checking out our events calendars, in the Discovering Qatar section and at marhaba.qa.

Author: Sarah Palmer

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