With its futuristic architecture and spectacular views of the Persian Gulf, Doha, on the eve of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 (20 November-18 December 2022), is proving a golden destination, not only for football fans but also art aficionados and devotees of luxury. In late October, the fashion cognoscenti flocked to the sun-kissed city for Fashion Trust Arabia, an award celebrating young fashion designers in the Middle East and North Africa region, as well as the opening of the exhibition ‘Forever Valentino’. The demanding crowd sampled and embraced multiple new art and hospitality hotspots. We tasked one of the participants, Paris-based fashion and culture journalist Minako Norimatsu, with writing the latest in our ‘Postcard from' series, a design-minded guide to what to see and do in Doha right now.
Doha: 8 things to see and do in the city
Museum of Islamic Art
Founded in 2008, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) has just reopened its doors after months of renovations, and a refreshed collection display including newly acquired artefacts. Architect IM Pei’s postmodern edifice, clad in limestone, was inspired by the ablution fountain of the Ibn Tulun Mosque in Cairo, while the permanent-collection galleries are by Wilmotte & Associés. Take a moment to admire the sea views through huge glass windows from the spectacular five-storey atrium. In its adjoining waterfront space, MIA Park, a monumental sculpture by Richard Serra appears to emerge from the bay.
Northern Heritage Site
Only an hour’s drive from Doha brings you to Al Zubarah, where Shadows travelling on the sea of the day, 2022, by Olafur Eliasson has been freshly unveiled. The site-specific public art installation in the middle of the desert consists of a series of steel circular shelters, with mirrored round ceilings measuring around 5m in diameter. Following a conversation with a local archaeologist, the artist was lured by this flat expanse, which offers views over the ancient Al Jassasiya rock carvings. Shadows travelling on the sea of the day is the climax of The Northern Heritage Sites circuit, which includes a 19th-century fortress, an installation by Ernest Neto, and a monolith by Simone Fattal.
In the heart of the eco-responsible Design District of Msheireb stands the fashion and design hub M7, designed by John McAslan + Partners and fusing modernism with a nod to the Arabic traditional majlis (an open space for group activities). Bruce Nauman’s geometric sculpture in the forecourt cannot be missed. M7 houses two things that are rare in the city: a casual café with a minimalist Scandi-style interior, and a concept store stocked with local fashion and lifestyle brands. ‘Forever Valentino’, a major perspective of the house of Valentino, is on view through 1 April 2023 in the gallery space.
Doha’s buzziest members’ club, The Ned is housed in the city’s former Ministry of the Interior building, originally designed by Lebanese architect William Sednaoui in the 1960s. The five-storey, 500,000 sq ft property was transformed by David Chipperfield Architects into an exclusive hotel with public restaurants and bars, a health club and event spaces. Compared to its sister outposts, The Ned London and the New York location, The Ned Doha leans more toward 1970s glamour, with a hint of Halston. It also boasts an art collection showcasing a selection of local contemporary artists, curated by the co-founders of Mathaf (Arab Museum of Modern Art).
Lobito De Mar
Dani Garcìa, the Michelin-starred chef known for his refined take on southern Spanish cuisine, is a key player on Doha’s culinary scene. Having opened his Andalusian brasserie Bibo in early 2020 to great acclaim, he is now replicating its success with Lobito de Mar. His modus operandi is simple: extremely fresh seafood, prepared in varied, creative ways. Among the range of rice dishes, octopus paella and lobster creamy rice are must-haves. The restaurant, which is replete with playfully aquatic design details, spreads in the shape of a fan within the garden of the Kempinski Marsa Malaz. It also includes a sea-view terrace and a tapas bar.
Heenat Salma Farm
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An eco-farm and camp with an ethical and holistic approach, Heenat Salma is located in the middle of Shahaniya, a 40-minute drive from Doha. Activities range from basket weaving, pottery workshops and holistic wellness programmes to bike trips and yoga retreats. Swing by the kitchen and watch the chef Ivan Dubkov prepare seasonal, farm-to-table delights, such as cauliflower soup, and labneh and beet salad. The traditional nomad-style tents are beautifully decorated with a slightly contemporary touch – a perfect getaway in a desert environment.
Among seven new stadiums that were built especially for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Stadium 974 is the architectural highlight. Linked to the stadium’s location in the neighbourhood of the city’s industrial port, the Spanish firm Fenwick Iribarren Architects smartly used recycled shipping containers and modular steel elements, saving on time and construction costs. If Empire, Huang Yong Ping’s installation made up of shipping containers dazzled us at Monumenta 2016 in Paris, here, the concept has been supersized with a total of 974 containers. The number also stands for Qatar’s country dialling code.
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Regardless of your shopping habits, Qatari malls are worth experiencing for their sheer scale. The latest opening of this kind in Lusail, a newly developed hyper-modern district on the outskirts of Doha, is named Place Vendôme. Obviously inspired by the French luxury sanctuary, its architectural look is French neoclassical, while its esplanade channels the Grand Canal of Venice, with boats ferrying passengers arriving through the West Bay. Don’t miss the ‘Montaigne’ section in Gate 4. Seeing the signage of all the luxury brands spread under the monumental dome is nothing short of awe-inducing.
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Minako Norimatsu is a Japanese journalist and consultant based in Paris. Extremely curious about everything creative, her field ranges from fashion to art, dance, hospitality and travel. She has interviewed many Japanese fashion designers and artists for Wallpaper*, as well as non-Japanese creatives whose inspirations are drawn from Japan.
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