A SUMMER TO REMEMBER
Qatar Tourism Authority's Qatar Summer Festival gave the population plenty to cheer about over the two months. QatarToday brings you some of the highlights.
If you are a kid of 12 years or below, living in Doha for the past couple of months would have been the closest you'd have got to paradise. True to the agenda of creating a niche for itself as a family destination, Doha and its surrounding locales were transformed into an exciting adventure-land of splish-splashy fun, extreme(ish) sports, ice-skating Disney characters and TV shows. There may have been times when you wished you were a kid again, but we bet none of those times could have been as compelling and heart breaking as when you are standing sadly by the sidelines watching some lucky kid bounce around inside a zorb, wondering if they'd let you have a go and wondering still if you'd even fit into the tunnel-like entrance.
Yes, that happened. Zorbing was just one of the cool activities going down at the Doha Exhibition Centre, where families thronged, weekdays and weekends alike, for a pleasantly-frenzied distraction. Even as you are making your way towards the entrance, you'd see, every five minutes or so, a happy and exhausted/ hopped-up kid pedaling out of the entrance on his or her brand new, still-in-the-wrapper tricycle (which was quite clearly selling like hotcakes inside, over at the shopping section). Once inside, the full force and meaning of Family Fun hits you. The sprawling exhibition floor was blanketed with screaming and excited children, their parents trailing behind them with strollers and bottles of water.
The floor was divided into distinctive zones – summer freeze, extreme adventure, kids', stage, interactive sports, food court and shopping. Why it is called interactive sports zone, we couldn't tell, but as we neared it (drawn mostly by the sight of heavily padded young men and women
taking laps around the segway circuit), we notice a sign warning us of flying stones. The RC car racing track right next door was quiet then but it must have been quite intense when the races were on if they had to be bystanders worried about getting hit in the face with rocks. The summer freeze zone had a winter wonderland-ish feel with ski slopes, transparent igloos filled with fluffy feathers, ice castles and the like. But perhaps the most exciting activity we saw (yes, more exciting than zorbing) was the circus school. And judging by the long line of kids standing in the enclosure waiting for their turn to trapeze across the room and do a flip-flop into a giant cushion, it was a crowd favourite. We didn't notice any little clowns but how perfect would it have been if the circus school had a little clown college within? Rock climbing and jungle ropes gave the older kids something adrenaline-filled to do with their time. And the Kids' zone had plenty playtimes and cartoon screening to keep the youngest ones occupied.
Though entry was free, all the activities inside required payment. However, they were all reasonably priced between QR10 and QR30 for a certain time or number of laps. For a couple of hours and a QR150 budget per kid, you could have easily turned your children into obedient little slaves for the summer on the promise of another family fun time in the near future. All zones were manned by a large number of staff, ensuring personal attention and safety. Outside the exhibition floor, Bedaya Centre had brought together some of the retailers they support for a small shopping section that featured elaborate wood works, stationery, fashion accessories and more. As we exited the venue, a large sign directed us to other locations around the city where we could enjoy the Qatar Summer Festival.
The inflatable aqua park that had sprung up at Al Wakrah beach was one. Water slides, beach games, splash pools and more helped many a family cool off this summer. For the older but still young at heart adventurers, activities like snorkeling in Qatar's Fringing Coral Reef, scenic flights, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, etc were arranged near the Al Khor Mall. And all the fun was not reserved for the outdoorsy types (though they did get the lion's share of it); mall birds had much to celebrate as well. All the big malls had plenty of summer offers, raffle draws and spectacular prizes like Audi cars as giveaways. And QTA took a page out of Dubai Mall's awesome musical fountains with the one they put up in the Corniche near the Al Mourjan restaurant. Set to classical symphonies, the jets of colour-drenched water shot up 50 metres into the sky, wowing the gathered crowd. Every evening at regular intervals, the fountains were definitely worth the nightmarish traffic situation you had to suffer through before you got there.
The Festival wrapped up with the coup de grace - Disney On Ice. The new Rockin' Ever After show, which ran at Qatar National Convention Centre between September 24 and 27, not only featured the classic staple of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy but also brought to life (on ice) the stories of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled and, for the first time, Brave. Like we said before, there was no better time to be a kid than in Doha in the summer of 2014