Posted on January 05, 2019

Expatriates are rediscovering the most famous souq in Qatar through the Souq Waqif cultural shopping tours conducted in an authentic Qatari way by Embrace Doha as one of the features of the ongoing third Shop Qatar festival. This is the second year Embrace Doha, a local cultural consultant company,  has partnered with Shop Qatar to offer this authentic experience as a unique element and an added value to the festival. 

During the tour, Qataris act as guides to show the participants where and how locals shop while they impart the rich history of the souq known before as the ‘standing market.’ Speaking to reporters at a recent Shop Qatar media event, Embrace Doha founder Amal Al Shammari said there is increasing interest in the activity among expatriates as well as visitors. “People are really interested. Many of those who join the tours have been in Doha for years and have been to Souq Waqif many times but have never gone deep into the souq and have never seen the shops; they just keep going to the usual specific places like the restaurants,” said Al Shammari, adding the tour provides participants a different view of the souq.

She said many expats don’t venture deep into the souq because they are not aware of what to buy there, the prices and use of the items being sold in these shops among other things which locals can shed light on. “We wanted to contribute to the shopping festival by doing something a bit different which is ‘Shop the Qatari Way’.   Instead of doing the usual souq tour or shopping tour, we merged them to be a Qatari style shopping tour in Souq Waqif which is both educational and entertaining,” she said. 

The tour leads to specific shops in the different points in the souq such as the spice and the fabric markets and shows participants how they should buy certain products such as oil perfumes, local handicrafts and fabrics. “Embrace Doha is a cultural consultant company. What we do is try to build a bridge between the expat community and the Qatari community, as a lot of companies are trying to, by explaining Qatari culture through cultural sessions,” said Al Shammari, adding they do the tours and cultural events on top of the sessions. 

The Souq Waqif cultural shopping tours are held every Saturdays during the festival. One more tour will be held today.  Alshaima Alshaikh of Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), recently underlined the importance of collaborating with public and private entities including Embrace Doha in making this edition of Shop Qatar another success. She noted the significant participation to the festival with 14 participating retail partners and more than 55 hotels which have lined up their own promotional offers while highlighting the strong start to the festival coinciding with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s first ever National Day Trade Festival which offered up to 90 percent discount and which was lauded by participating malls as well.

“It’s our first time participating in Shop Qatar festival and we’re really excited to be part of the festival. “What really worked for us was when we started off with the up to 90 percent message where majority of our retailers were offering up to 90 percent discounts. It was the first time that happened in Qatar during which our footfall was phenomenal,” said Fahim Matabdin, Marketing Manager of Al Mana Malls, the company which operates Mirqab Mall. Mirqab Mall is taking part in the festival for the first time this year and Matabdin was optimistic on the turnout of their inaugural participation.

He stressed that during the National Day Trade Festival, they witnessed a double-digit growth in footfall. “From December 15 until now, our footfall is over 400,000 customers which is really great specially for world class community mall this size,” he added. Meanwhile, the first ever Design District, opens today as a main feature of the festival expected to provide a strong platform to further nurture local talent in the field of fashion and Qatar’s fashion industry. Held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, the District brings a colourful showcase of 75 pop-up shops, cafes, and more than 20 fashion shows and masterclasses along with live entertainment - all under one roof extending over two weekends until January 12. 

Fashion enthusiasts will find world-renowned designers from Paris to Mumbai showcasing their latest Spring/Summer collections and online-famous makeup artists offering beauty masterclasses and workshops, among others. More than 14 international designers and five Qatari designers are taking part in the District.