Katara Cultural Village is one of Doha’s premier attractions, with something to entertain both residents and visitors alike.
Katara sits on the waterfront along Lusail Street, just a few kilometres north 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 multi-dimensional project brings together all the cultures of the world, with theatres, concert halls, exhibition and art galleries and 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
When in Katara, you cannot miss the Pigeon Towers. Three are located near the Katara Masjid and the others are near Al Jazeera Media Café. Pigeons and other birds can rest within the holes of the towers, which can house up to 14,000 birds. Katara also provides water and food to the pigeons. Constructed of unfired mud brick, lime plaster and gypsum, the towers range from 10 to 22 metres in diameter and stand at least 18 metres high.
Another 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 and Islamic features with seating for 5,000 spectators, who over the years have been treated to many open-air concerts and film screenings.
Just outside the ampitheatre stands Lorenzo Quinn’s The Force of Nature II. The 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.
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 appliances, buckets, 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.
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.
Designed by globally-known Turkish mosque designer, Zainab Fadil Oglu, Katara Masjid, which is also known as the Blue Mosque, 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. 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 promotes 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.’ To date, Katara Publishing House has published over 100 books, including 60 novels in Arabic, English and French. Katara Publishing House can be found next to Building No 15, near the Amphitheatre Boulevard.
Entry to Katara Beach is free to all visitors, however there is a fee for watersports. The 1.5 km beach is perfect for relaxing and to partake in one of the many beach activities, such as parasailing or kneeboarding.
In addition, Katara Beach Club by LivNordic Spa & Wellness is gender separated over two floors with treatment rooms including 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.
A recent addition to Katara is the much-anticipated Katara Plaza, also known as 21 High Street, a 38,000 sq m outdoor luxury shopping complex, which is home to Galeries Lafayette Doha, the first Evian Spa in the Middle East, and the first dedicated children’s mall.
Katara 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, has recently been completed. The iconic and unique mixed-use development consists of a wide range of facilities to complement those already offered, with 12 buildings and further parking spaces.
The buildings house a chain of restaurants and cafes, libraries, exhibition hall, cinema and other cultural centres such as the first planetarium and astronomical observatory in Qatar, Al Thuraya Planetarium; and the Marina District with a maritime restaurant and eight marine chalets.
Katara Hills is a project set over 361,500 sq m of green spaces with at least 3,300 plants and trees from different countries.
For more information, visit katara.net, or call 182 or 4408 0000.