DOHA, Qatar's Riposte to Dubai


Esther Kieselhof | September 23, 2010

According to Esther Kieselhof, fashion & beauty editor for the Qatar-based luxury lifestyle magazine Isola...

A view of the city from I.M. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art on the Corniche

According to Esther Kieselhof, fashion & beauty editor for the Qatar-based luxury lifestyle magazine Isola

While Doha, Qatar is located a mere 235 miles from the well known luxury shopping destination Dubai, it’s aspirations lay elsewhere, as the quieter, arguably more liveable luxury destination in the region. There are several multi-billion dollar luxury developments helping put this wealthy city in the global luxury spotlight.

Built on 985 acres of reclaimed land just off the shore of the Arabian Peninsula, is the awe-inspiring Pearl Qatar development. A unique mix of classic Arabian, Italian and French architecture was referenced to create this distinct Arabian Riviera. In addition to the dozens of luxury brand boutiques that opened their well air-conditioned doors in early 2009 (Hermès, Missoni, Chloé to name a few), there are also world-renowned restaurants such as Tse Yang, Maze by Gordon Ramsay and Les Deux Magots which have all opened eateries on the Pearl. For good measure, Rolls-Royce and Ferrari also opened dealerships near the main entrance to the development, tempting Doha’s affluent residents to upgrade whatever they drove in on, to something infinitely more deluxe.

The Porto Arabia area of The Pearl

A visit to the south east of The Pearl is the Villagio mall, arguably the most popular indoor shopping centre in Doha. Sprawled over 125,000 sq m, Villagio is always bustling with activity. The mall is a spotless marble floored modern day shopping oasis, complete with a gondola water taxi to complement the Venetian inspired interior. On the opposite end of the mall is the Via Domo – a 5 story-high, trompe l’oeuil painted sky ceiling that frames the luxury-shopping area. Shoppers are offered international delicacies at the recently opened Dean & Deluca and various luxury brand boutiques such as Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, and Dior to name a few. Though nothing really compares to a fresh summer breeze at a European open-air café, the interior design provides a welcome comfort in an otherwise unforgiving desert climate.

These two luxury meccas, The Pearl and Villagio, are the landmarks around which so many more exciting luxury developments are in the works such as The Lagoona retail development in Qatar’s West Bay and The Gate as well as several mixed residential/retail complexes like The Piazza in the Lusail district on the edge of the city or Al Wa’ab City where the multibrand fashion boutique Zai is located (launched by NBK Fashion, a prominent local player in the luxury sector and subsidiary of the Nasser Bin Khalid Group). Further development in hospitality is expected hard and fast from hoteliers like the Mandarin Oriental, which recently announcemented it will open in Doha in 2014, making it the firm’s second target in the Middle East after Abu Dhabi. Considering that these really are just the tip of the iceberg, it’s no wonder that Qatari businessmen like to say that their capital is set to stand out as bright as ‘a diamond in the desert sand’.