All photos by Chantelle D’mello
A new Italian-inspired luxury shopping center catering to Qatar and the region’s wealthiest residents is eying a soft opening by year-end, its developer has said.
The QR3 billion project, AlHazm, is under Al Emadi Enterprises and located near Al Markhiya.
However, speaking to Doha News, AlHazm’s marketing director Soufiane El Ouazzani stressed that the new venue differs greatly from other shopping centers in Qatar.
“It’s not a mall. Our target (is) people who don’t go to malls,” he said. “We’re catering to the Qataris who don’t shop in Doha, the ones who go to Paris and Milan to buy clothes and accessories.
We also don’t offer what traditional malls offer. There is no food court, or franchise chains. This is a destination because it is a customized service for each person. You will be known by name,” he said.
He added that though the company is eyeing an end-of-year launch, that may be pushed to the first quarter of 2016.
Foundations for the 105,159 square meter project were laid almost six years ago. AlHazm, which means “the natural hill” in the Qatari dialect, is situated atop a small green mound on Al Markhiya Street.
Some 15 architects were hired to mirror some of the features of Italy’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, which is housed in a 19th century double arcade in Milan, among other different Italian buildings.
The architects are among a team that also includes some 2,500 engineers, construction worker and others working on the project, which is expected to utilize some 41,400 tons of stone and marble.
Plans for the project were overseen by Mohamed A.K. Al Emadi, the company’s CEO, whose long-held fascination with Italy lead to the creation of AlHazm, the project’s creative director said.
Speaking to Doha News, Georges Bou Ibrahim continued:
“It’s inspired by Italy, yes, but everything is made in Doha. We imported stones from Jerusalem, Carrara, and Tuscany by ship to be treated by 250 Indian carvers from Rajasthan who were also brought to Doha.”
In addition to carved marble arches, gleaming walls and mammoth pillars, Ibrahim said that AlHazm is comprised of special slabs of marble similar to the ones in Mecca, which aim to keep floor temperatures at 20C despite surrounding heat.
Other fixtures include a 40m-wide glass dome, one of the largest in the country, and 200-year-old olive trees imported from Sicily.
In keeping with the Italian theme, there will also be several sculptures, water fountains and gazebos in the outdoor areas between the glass-domed galleria and the surrounding piazza.
The piazza is composed of five blocks, green spaces, fountains and gazebos.
Qatar is home to the third-highest density of millionaires in the world.
And according to a report from global management consulting firm BCG, the total number of households in the country with private wealth of $1 million or more rose by 3.7 percent during 2014. That figure is projected to further increase by 4.1 percent by 2019.
When it opens, AlHazm aims to cater to that clientele, as well as other wealthy people in the region. Those people rarely shop in Doha, El Ouzzani said.
A glass pyramid on one end of the central galleria will double as the project’s VVIP entrance, where visitors will have private access to retail stores, and a special 3,000 square meter underground auction and gallery space.
Above the underground VVIP area is a VIP floor, where personal shoppers will assist visitors interested in the clothes, jewelry and other effects from retail stores housed inside the galleria.
Ibrahim declined to list the names of retail outlets that will be housed in AlHazm, but said several designer brands and high-end stores will be included.
The surrounding piazzas will be home to several one-of-a-kind restaurants and cafes, handpicked from countries around the world, and will each have dedicated lobbies leading to the common underground parking space.
“We brought authentic food from all the well-known cities in the world,” El Ouazzani said, adding that most of the food and beverage offerings will be new to Qatar.
The space is also slated to hold a fresh market with organic produce imported from across the world.
“There will be chocolate from Belgium, cheese from France… It’s a fresh market full of products that are not native to, and not available in Doha,” he added.
With a mission to promote art, culture, and luxury, the project will also include an in-house library with several rare manuscripts and encyclopedias, reading rooms and books related to art, architecture, culture and the Islamic world.
The outdoor spaces in between the galleria and piazzas will be used to hold special events and as an open-air viewing room for the sculptures. The domed galleria is also slated to house a skyline terrace for special events and performances.
Finally, an adjacent Ladies Club will provide customized beauty and spa services, and a Kids’ Entertainment Center, housed in the same building, will include novel “edutainment” activities where children will be encouraged to both play and learn simultaneously, Ibrahim said.