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Friday, October 30, 2020

Qatar’s Souq Ahmed demolished to make way for new hotel

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All photos by Lesley Walker

As part of plans to redevelop Doha’s old downtown, demolition has begun on Souq Ahmed Bin Ali, with neighboring souqs facing permanent closure by the end of the year.

Much of Souq Ahmed, which is located behind the Fanar Cultural Center and opened in the late 1980s, has already been bulldozed, with several diggers breaking down remaining sections this week.

According to developers UrbaCon Trading & Contracting (UCC), a hotel will be built on the site. A pedestrian tunnel is also in the works under Bank St., leading from the old souq area to the popular Souq Waqif.

The tunnel is set to open by the end of the year, UCC said in a statement to Doha News, adding that it is currently drawing up the design concepts for a boutique hotel on the old souq site.

Souq Ahmed demolition

For the past few decades, Souq Ahmed hosted some 50 small stores that sold lower-priced bed linens, clothing and household goods. It was also home to several money exchanges and cafes.

The area was popular with Qataris and residents from Asian countries because the stores often offered discounts on their goods.

Souq Ahmed closing sales.
Souq Ahmed closing sales.

Staff at the shops there previously told Doha News that they were informed by text message in February this year that they would soon be forced to close, and that the site would be razed.

In March, after their electricity was cut off, some stores continued to operate by candlelight while clearing existing stock.

Many owners and managers said they had already secured new premises in other residential districts in Doha such as Muaither, Muntaza and Abu Hamour, as well as further out of town in Mesaimeer.

Other souqs

Meanwhile, it appears that adjacent commercial complexes on the street will also not be open for much longer.

Speaking to Doha News this week, store employees and managers said they have been told they have between three to six months left to operate before they are closed.

A staffer at Hollywood Perfumes in Souq Faleh said the owner of his store was currently looking for an alternative site as they were in their final months of being allowed to operate.

According to Nazmul Sarker, a salesman at Al Jawal Abaya in Souq Faleh, the government had taken over the leases on the stores in the area in November 2014 and at that time gave the shops a year’s notice to leave their current premises.

Fabric shop in Souq Assiry
Fabric shop in Souq Assiry

Sarker said the owner of the store was already looking for a new site in a neighborhood popular with Qatari families, although had not confirmed the location yet.

The story was similar further down the road, in shops in Souq Al Asiri. A salesman in Pinoy Sports said he believed the shop would be closing in around three months.

Staff in some of the popular material shops in Souq Al Deira, opposite Al Rawnaq, said they had been granted permission to operate a little longer. One salesman said he understood the busy souq would likely not be closed for another two years.

Other commercial centers in the area such as Souq Al Jaber have also been earmarked for closure, having already been served with eviction notices from the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya).

Stores that have been operating on Ras Abu Aboud Street for 20 years and more are also closing, as are shops around Dar Al Khuttub roundabout, to make way for more modern developments as well as Qatar Rail stations and track.

Old streets in Msheireb
Old streets in Msheireb

The Old Ghanim area was once the bustling heart of Doha, with hundreds of small stores selling everything residents could need, as well as offices, banks and eating establishments.

But many of the buildings set to close are now decades old and are in a state of disrepair, showing peeling paint and broken concrete.

On the other side of Souq Waqif, the old shopping districts gave way years ago to the massive under-construction Msheireb development, which is set to transform the area with five-star hotels and sleek, modern retail plazas.

Meanwhile, the old Souq Najada, known as “mobile phone souq” which was closed down in 2012 and later demolished, is being rebuilt as a souq and boutique hotel, developers UCC said.

Souq Najada works
Souq Najada works

The seven-story hotel will have 126 rooms and suites, as well as two restaurants, a gym, a swimming pool and a business center.

A bookstore and a multi-story car park will also be located on the site, in addition to a two-level shopping complex, according to details on UCC’s website. The new buildings are expected to be completed by April 2016.

While some residents mourn the departure of the old souqs, others argue that the dilapidation of some of the buildings is potentially dangerous and the redevelopment is part of Doha’s ongoing reinvention over the years.

Thoughts?

31 COMMENTS

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A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

its not called Bank St, but Grand Hamad Street and there has to be an error in date it would be completed, april 2016.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

unless they’re not knocking down the main structures and renovating them into hotels…

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

It was always called bank street in my time here because of the obvious.

Zooma
Zooma
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Obvious idiocy of not reading the street’s name, indeed.

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  Zooma

No was just an obvious name cause all the banks used to be there. Did not insult, no need for u to,

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

The old round about on waab where d ring is now was called smelly round about cause it smelled like sewer there

Simon
Simon
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Don’t forget ‘Crazy Signal’.

And ‘Ramada Signal’ is no longer strictly correct, of course.

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  Simon

Yes we knew Ramada Signal as Cholesterol Corner because it was where most of the first fast food joints were.

Doc
Doc
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Smelly Signal still smells.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

It’s official name is Grand Hamad Street, always was. People call it bank st cause of all the banks and the central bank on he street. The writer used Bank st with a capital “B” indicating its official name which is wrong .. But then again what’s one to expect from lazy Friday morning journalism

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

We all know that and putting a B is no big deal. Stop sweating the small stuff.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

I agree facts and correct grammar are stupid little details for dn editors :s

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

The continued development of Doha does make me wonder what effect the completed Lusail will have on the old city. When construction dies and all the expats have gone home just which 260,000 inhabitants are going to live there? – will the Qatari and similar (wealthy) cultures flock there to create a ghetto? What will happen to all the malls in Doha if the rich only shop in the Lusail commercial centre and yet most of the expat shoppers have disappeared back to their home country? Will Qatar suddenly have enough spare accommodation to become a safe haven for all those in the Middle East and Africa suffering repression and famine etc who are currently flocking to Europe? Post 2022 will see dramatic change in Qatar (and much earlier if some have their way and it’s cancelled) and yet Qatar seems oblivious to the change. Have I missed the point somewhere?

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Do you seriously think the population will decrease after 2022 to 260k? That’s like going back to 1960s levels. There will clearly be tens of thousands of white collars leaving, and possibly hundreds of thousands of labourers, but the population will still be in the millions. Bear in mind that the WC is just one objective and the main objective eventually is the 2030 vision.

Dubai residents at some point thought the same, but they discovered later that the development of their city can only happen when locals and expats work together for the prosperity of the place.

Tim
Tim
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Qatar has around 1,000,000 blue collar workers, if anyone is leaving after 2022 it would be this segment.

Yacine
Yacine
5 years ago
Reply to  Tim

Do you think after 2022 nothing will be built? Even houses are constructed by labourers so there will always be a need for them. But obviously yes, many of them will leave and there will possibly be only half of them in Qatar starting from 2023

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

No Yacine I didn’t say the population will shrink to 260K. Neither will it be “millions”. I said if Lusail fills up with 260k of whom many will come from Doha, and if half the expats leave, then surely Doha will have an oversupply of malls, offices, and housing and will surely have an economic catastrophe on it’s hands – or as I also said, I must be missing something.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Qatar expects the population to be between 4 to 5 million by 2030

Ree
Ree
5 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Many other sector workers were here before the world cup was discussed and many will be here after – business is business

Huzz
Huzz
5 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

The plan is not for people to leave. The country cannot sustain itself if they do. The only long term solution that they have is to keep building as the income that the majority of locals make is off the expat community. If the expats were to leave then the gov would have to trump up more gov jobs to employ the locals. The gas money will continue to be pumped into construction and the majority of income that the expats make will continue to be given back through rents and costs of living here. Of course, at the same time the country will continue to rise as the destination for GCC members. The Saudis will come in ever increasing numbers as they feel that it is Islamic but they can access the alcohol, women and cinema (not necessarily in that order) as they like. – Generalisation.

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago
Reply to  Huzz

Don’t completely agree with that Huzz. if you look at the unbelievable amount of infrastructure now being built then construction must inevitably and dramatically slow down after 2022 – you can’t just build for the sake of building because even Qatar will one day learn that what you build must be economically viable, so there will undoubtedly be fewer projects required and consequently fewer people at all levels in Qatar. Maybe 500k-1million less than there are today. As for the much vaunted tourism that will target the GCC market, the alcohol argument fails because all the resorts in planning will be dry. Also Qatar is investing abroad for when the gas runs out and that will be the future source of income.

dubious
dubious
5 years ago
Reply to  Huzz

Dubai found out the hard way that the tower of construction is not sustainable. They seem to have come out of it reasonably ok now, but they had decades of marketing their image and a history of successfully executing their vision to fall back on.

Doha will almost certainly have a similar crash (imho) with half the population moving on after the 2022 construction slowdown unless it is very carefully managed (and I don’t see great evidence of that). There will still be projects ongoing, but nothing like the feeding frenzy going on at the moment. Maybe it’ll go back to being like the good old days when all these ‘new’ people leave!
Probably the best thing would be to lose the WC and allow the construction to be re-focussed and the remainder spread out to 2030.

The push for tourism may help mitigate it, but Qatar also does not have the best reputation/perception in the GCC and really, what stand-out qualities does Doha have vs other GCC locations? It’s “slightly more ‘Islamic'” than DXB, AUH and BAH?

Huzz
Huzz
5 years ago
Reply to  dubious

This is true but Dubai did not have the bottomless pit that Tamim has available now.

Scarletti
Scarletti
5 years ago

I hope its at least 6 Star, I am tiered of all the 5 star rubbish for the mass market !

Mr. Q (a.k.a. amnesia)

You made it sound (again), that they were notified in February for the first time. They were notified YEARS ago, and had an extension on the eviction twice. I recommend including those facts so that people aren’t lead to believe that officials just busted in, surprised them and said get out.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the better infrastructure and to see that Qatar is also focusing on improving the older areas of Doha. I’m excited that there’s also an emphasis on creating pedestrian areas to encourage people to walk outside in certain areas. I just hope there will be more low and mid range shops. I’m not interested in luxury stuff anymore.

desertCard
desertCard
5 years ago

Yeah but the older parts at least hold some character. The Second Hand Market in Najma, Souq Ahmed, the electrical soul at Dhow roundabout, etc were just cool places to explore and see what you can find. Not everyone can afford nor do they want to experience nothing but 6* attractions. Glitzy malls are predictably boring.

A_qtr
A_qtr
5 years ago

The story must be sensitonalized

Simon
Simon
5 years ago

Oh good. ‘s’wat the place needs.

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

The souq is dead! Long live the souq.

Simon
Simon
5 years ago

Good one!

The place wasn’t much of an advert for Doha, was it?

Maui Cavil
Maui Cavil
5 years ago

As a frequent costumer of these stores, I just hope that the stores would give details to their costumers as to where they are going to transfer or relocate their stores.

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