Thousands of families and workers thronged a new entertainment complex in the Industrial Area for the opening of the Grand Mall on Friday.
The launch of the 10,000 sqm shopping facility, operated by Dubai-based Regency Group, marks the first phase opening of the West End park, a complex that officials have said will cater to Qatar’s low-income population with cheaper prices. Grand Mall includes a hypermarket and yet-to-be-opened outdoor amusement park rides, as well as medical facilities and a photography studio.
The entertainment complex, located near Mowasalat headquarters in Mesaimeer, is owned by the Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani Social Welfare Fund, which said in a statement that the project was an effort to “achieve the ingredients of a modern society” and “secure higher standard of living, to encourage sports and recreation for the citizens and residents.
The complex will also have an amphitheater, four-cinema complex and cricket stadium. The entire facility, which will include some 80,000 residential units, won’t be fully operational at least until mid-2014.
Residents began lining up to enter the shopping complex around 4pm on Friday. Families mostly of South Asian origin were permitted to enter the Grand Mall around 6pm as Qatar’s Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al Khulaifi and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, among others, toured the facilities.
Though several Fazaa cars and police officers were on patrol to monitor crowds and traffic, there was such a crush of people trying to enter the mall at the same time that the glass of an electric escalator at the entrance of the hypermarket broke, the Peninsula reports.
Meanwhile, men without families were allowed inside Grand Mall after the official tour was completed, before 8pm. Many, including Raj Kumar, a garage foreman who lives and works in the Industrial Area, told Doha News that they were happy about the opening:
“I am expecting cheaper prices because, you know, the people that live in this area, we are low-income workers.”
He added that he was also pleased that the mall is in walking distance of his house. “Before, we used to go to Doha commercial centers, but this is closer.”
However, the walk to the complex is currently not easy – it involves crossing the highway and climbing over several road barriers, although some sections are paved sidewalks for pedestrians.
And though the mall is open to the public, sections of the complex remain under construction, including the kids’ play area, the parking lot and sidewalks.
Nonetheless, West End Park appears to be succeeding in offering much-needed entertainment options for many of the men who live in the Industrial Area and are banned from entering some of Qatar’s malls and parks on Fridays, due to a “family day” policy.