Shop Qatar’s recently concluded Souq Waqif tours attracted many residents and international visitors who had the chance to explore the “hidden gems” of one of Qatar’s historic and most popular tourist destinations.
Qataris served as guides for the tours, categorised for men, women and families, taking participants to “an authentic and culture-filled” stroll to explore Souq Waqif beyond the traditional restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops, organised by festival partner Embrace Doha from January 18 to 27.
“A lot of people say they’ve been to Souq (Waqif) a number of times but never seen or visited ‘this path,’” Embrace Doha CEO Amal al-Shammari told reporters at a press briefing on the tours and Shop Qatar recently.
“So we take them deep inside the Souq, the main way where there is shisha, we ignored it. We went inside to show them the shops where our parents would go and buy things from them,” she said.
Shops at Souq Waqif offer an array of unique items.
Some of the tour activities included exploring and discovering local men’s fabrics, thobe tailoring, accessories perfumes, art, coffee, dates, Qatari snacks, local handicrafts, fabrics women and incense.
The tours offered a series of sessions to introduce Qatari culture and traditions to the participants “in a short yet simple and sweet” manner, according to al-Shammari.
“During the festival, we introduced a service called ‘shop the Qatari way’ and it means like we’ll take you to Souq Waqif and to a certain station where Qataris usually go and buy from, and teach you how to bargain for example,” al-Shammari explained. “We do it authentically and in a local style.”
She noted that such activities received a positive response from the public who want to have a deeper understanding of the Souq.
Participants also witnessed how to prepare karak and Arabic perfumes, how to distinguish a bad or good quality product, and which brand is better for a particular item, among others.
Al-Shammari said the tours attracted a diverse range of visitors, from cruise passengers who come for one day to transit passengers who want to maximise their stay in the country.
“One of the challenges listed in Qatar National Vision 2030 is how can we become modernised, having all these towers and businesses in the region, and preserve the Qatari culture because you don’t want to lose your identity like Dubai, for example,” she added.
“We wanted to start with the changes so we preserve our culture and not by keeping it for ourselves as Qataris but by teaching others and giving opportunities to others to know and understand the Qatari culture and then adopt it,” al-Shammari noted.
With many positive feedbacks from the public, she expressed optimism that the tours will return in the next edition of Shop Qatar.
Al-Shammari comes from a big traditional family of Bedouin heritage. Born and raised in Doha, and proud of her culture and heritage, she founded Embrace Doha as a cultural resource for people visiting and living in Qatar.