The annual Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) is scheduled to kick off tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at the Museum of Islamic Art Park and run through Saturday, March 28.
Now in its sixth year, the focus will still be on food, but organizers are also hoping to draw large crowds with a range of performances, events, fireworks and other offerings.
Here’s what you need to know to make the most of this year’s festival:
Hours and parking
The food festival officially opens at 5pm tomorrow and runs through 10:30pm. From Wednesday, March 25 until Saturday, March 28, the venue will be open from 1pm to 10:30pm.
Parking at MIA is reserved for VIP attendees and media only. MIA will close its parking lot to the public tomorrow at 5pm for the duration of the festival, an organizer told Doha News.
A park-and-ride service is being offered at the Marriott Doha hotel on the Corniche and at the old airport arrivals terminal. Free shuttles buses will take visitors from these parking locations to the MIA.
For those who prefer not to ride the bus, private cars will offer rides from each parking area to the festival venue for QR35 each way.
Attendees can also park nearby at the recently opened Souq Waqif carpark, but this is not a QIFF designated parking area and no shuttles will be available from there to MIA, organizers said.
For those who don’t want to worry about parking, Uber is offering two free rides – worth up to QR80 each – to and from the MIA. However, the offer is for new users only, using the promo code QIFF2015.
Fireworks and shows
The festival will hold daily firework shows at 6pm on March 24; 8:30pm on March 25, 26 and 27; and at 9:30pm on the March 28, the last day of the festival.
A variety of performances will be held each day, including performances by Lebanese singer/songwriter Tarek Sidani, who songs are a mix of pop and rock.
There will also be Arda dances – a traditional sword dance usually performed in weddings and on special national occasions in Qatar.
Meanwhile, a number of professional musicians will play traditional tunes and perform original folk music using pipe instruments. And there will also be several dance performances representing different cultures and countries, including a solo breakdancing show.
Chefs from different hotels around Qatar are invited to take a free cooking course to learn how to prepare traditional and innovative Qatari and Gulf dishes from 2pm to 4pm, starting on Wednesday.
The initiative is part of a Qatar Tourism Authority effort to guarantee hotels across the country include Qatari cuisine on their menus.
Various professional chefs will also host live cooking demonstrations for audiences, giving out free samples of food to those in attendance.
The Live Cooking Zone, which seats about 100 people, will also host celebrity chefs from around the world, including those from the “Fatafeat” food channel.
From March 25-28, there will also be pizza “freestyle acrobatic shows.” And on Thursday, ice-carving artists will demonstrate their skills in front of a live audience from 7pm onwards.
To get people involved and excited about food, QIFF has announced a cooking competition for Gulf and Qatar residents. Participants 18 years and older should share a photograph of themselves on social media (QIFF is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) while cooking with their families, and include the #QIFF2015 hashtag.
Entries are being accepted until March 27, and the winners will be announced on March 28.
Winners from the GCC countries will win two airplane tickets to Qatar and a 5-star hotel accommodation during their stay. Qatar residents will win four vouchers to dine in the sky during the festival.
Dozens of food stalls will be set around the MIA Park venue, including from many 5-star hotels that offer dishes for QR10 to QR25. This year, all stalls will accept cash, instead of relying on a voucher system that had left many confused during past QIFF iterations.
This year, the festival will also include a dedicated zone for celebrating Qatar-Turkey Year of Culture 2015, hosting both Qatari and Turkish chefs.
For those looking for something different – and willing to pay for it – there’s a “high-Flying cuisine” option where diners are served a five main-course meal some 60m above the ground.
Tickets are QR500 per person and available at a booth onsite from 5pm on Tuesday. The cuisine is provided by Qatar Airways and is available from Wednesday through Saturday from 1pm to 10pm.
Those who prefer to eat seaside can dine onboard a “BBQ Donut” or one of Qatar’s traditional wooden dhows.
The donut seats eight people and includes afternoon tea from Wednesday through Saturday from 1pm to 5pm for QR50 a person. Dinner is from 5pm to 10pm for QR250 a person. Diners can either barbecue by themselves or have trained staff grill for you. The cruise is offered by the Diplomatic Club.
The dhow takes a “tea cruise” every 30 minutes from 2pm to 5pm, for QR25 per person. There is also a dinner cruise that includes BBQ dishes from 6:30pm to 8:30pm for QR70 per person. This service is provided by Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels.
And finally, there will be a high tea tent hosted by the newly opened Marsa Malaz Kempinski – The Pearl Doha.
Do you plan to attend QIFF this year? Thoughts?