All photos by Chantelle D’mello
As part of the ongoing spring festival at Souq Waqif, a new circus act has opened that includes a troupe of acrobats, performing animals such as bears, monkeys and cats and colorful “dancing” fountains.
Dubbed the “Circus of Fountains,” the one-hour show is being performed daily at 4:30pm and 7:30 pm until Feb. 5.
Tickets cost QR30, QR50 and QR100, and can be bought from booths outside the venue located in front of the Al Jasra Boutique Hotel.
Drawn from talent across Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan, the three-year old show is an abridged version of its original European counterpart.
The 29-odd member crew includes four bears, nine monkeys, 14 cats and 10 dogs, all of whom were flown in via a charter flight into Doha, and are now housed in a series of tents behind the main arena.
During the show, the animals perform a variety of acts. The bears jump over dogs, balance themselves on rolling barrels and ride scooters; the cats jump from heights and tip toe across raised platforms; and the monkeys tightrope across metal bars, play pranks on each other and roll over.
Animal rights concerns
Last night, the show elicited squeals of delight from many who attended. The audience especially seemed to enjoy the interactive parts of the show during which members were pulled from the crowd to participate in activities on stage.
However, the use of animals in performances has also alarmed some Qatar residents.
In an email, one expat told Doha News:
“(The festival is) a wonderful idea as the souq is vibrant, old and new at the same time, a place of relaxation for citizens and a hub for tourists. However there is no need for these festivals to include animals…
This is animal misuse and cruelty – and for what purpose, to show off and hurt a noble form of life created by God that we as humans were given the great honor and duty to protect, look after and preserve?”
In response to complaints, a representative from the events firm organizing the show said that the company was working to ensure the animals’ well-being, adding that the circus has even hired a chef to prepare their meals.
Natalia Naumochkina from Lana Group International told Doha News that the animals were an integral part of the concept of a Russian circus, and so had to be flown in to complete the troupe.
“Because of the wind, some of the animals – like the monkeys – refuse to work, so we had to cut some of the acts short,” she conceded.
However, she added, “The animals were bred for the circus. The bears were born into the circus, are 14 years old and have been trained (since they were) young.”
During last year’s spring festival, a dolphin show organized by the same events company drew significant ire from many residents after one of the performing dolphins fell sick.
The animal had apparently swallowed a yellow plastic object that got lodged in its stomach.
At the time, several commenters expressed their displeasure at the event on the center’s Facebook page, saying dolphins should instead be viewed in their natural habitats.
At the time, Naumochkina said that every effort had been made to ensure the animals’ safety.
“One of our dolphins has taken sick, probably from ingesting a remnant of the construction work that has been going on since November. We have taken every measure to ensure that the animal receives the best care, and have spared no expense in treating it,” she said.