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|Native name||سوق المدينة|
Souq Waqif (Arabic: سوق واقف Sūq Wāqif, "the standing market") is a marketplace (souq) in Doha, in the state of Qatar. The souq is noted for selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. It is also home to dozens of restaurants and Shisha lounges. Although it dates back at least a hundred years, it was renovated in 2006 to conserve its traditional Qatari architectural style. It is often perceived to be the only lasting area in Doha that retains an authentic feel notably in reference to its commerce, architecture and culture. The area is very popular with locals and expats alike (especially on weekends) as it offers multiple dining options in the same location.
It is located in the district of Al Souq which is situated in the center of Doha. As it was a market used for trading activities, the area used to be located immediately adjoining the shore to allow for boats to access it. Although still facing the water, the direct link to the water front for boats is now divided by a major road and the recently completed park.
The souq was founded at least a century ago in proximity of the dry river bed known as Wadi Musheireb. It was a gathering place where Bedouins and locals would trade a variety of goods, primarily livestock goods. However with the boom in prosperity in the 1990s, the Souq fell in decline and in 2003, most of it was destroyed in a fire. This event initiated a restoration program by the government in 2006, with the purpose of preserving its architectural and historical identity. The first phase of restoration was funded by the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al Thani and his wife Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. Buildings constructed after the 1950s were demolished whereas older structures were refurbished. The restoration was completed in 2008. Traditional heating methods are employed by utilizing wood and bamboo imported from various areas of Asia.
Architecture and heritage
Several streets that appear as mazes with no defined geometric pattern are characteristic of these Middle-Eastern markets (souq). The Souq offers several small shops lined along these paths with a dazzling array of Middle Eastern merchandise from spices and seasonal delicacies to perfumes, jewellery, clothing and handicrafts. Traditional music, art and cultural shows add to the ambience of this historic place.
Low-rise buildings, generally only single-storied are a peculiar characteristic of Qatari Architecture. This is in keeping with regional planning principles and then available local materials such as bamboo, mud (soil) and palm fond (leaves of the date palm tree). All buildings in this market are rough plastered and small openings face the streets (generally faced a courtyard in former residential buildings). Wind towers were used in residential buildings and one such property exists at one end of the market.
Post renovations in the last decade, 2 underground parking lots for over 3000 cars have been added. In addition to the main square that faces the park and waterfront, a new square has been added around the center of the whole development. Water features to allow for climate control seem to be planned at the new square also.
Tourism and attractions
The souq is considered one of the best location for tourists within Doha. Thousands of people from across the region frequent it to purchase traditional goods. It hosts several art galleries, events and local concerts.
A yearly spring festival around April hosts many theatricals, acrobatics and musical performances. An event featuring WWE wrestlers, called Souq Waqif Storm, attracted the most spectators. There was discussion over the possibility of a repeat festival.
There are pet stalls in Souq Waqif which sell a variety of domestic pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles and birds. The sub-par living conditions of the pets has been the subject of advocacy campaigns in recent years, with proponents arguing that the animals suffer from a lack of proper healthcare and exposure to adverse weather conditions. Furthermore, some customers allege that stall owners falsify vaccination records. There is also a separate area in the souq reserved for falcon handling. The Bird souq, as it's called, sells not only falcons but also the needed accessories such as landing pads and GPS guidance systems for the birds. Within the vicinity is also a Falcon Hospital.
Al Rayyan Theatre
A 980-seat indoor theatre known as Al Rayyan Theatre is located in the souq.
Souq Waqif Art Centre
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The Souq Waqif Art Centre is located close to the Fish Market. The Centre combines a selection of small and artistic shops with a number of exhibition rooms laid out around a long narrow courtyard. Outside the rooms lie sculptures and chests inlaid with turtle shell.
Exhibitions have included The Islamic Arts exhibition, with displays of ancient calligraphy, some dating back centuries, and displays of carpets and photography.
The Souq Waqif was used as a filming location for a number of films screened at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2009, including the action film 'Dohard' directed by Dean Alexandrou and Masato Riesser, and produced by Waheed Khan, and 'The Haggler' directed and produced by the DTFF.
Souq Waqif boutique hotels
A collection of 9 uniquely stylized hotels form part of the market. These properties are spread across the main development and offer varied features from traditional to fairly modern. The properties are unique in their offering and highlight local aesthetics and character. A series of old houses have also been combined to showcase life in courtyard houses in Qatar. Some of the properties offer unique sea facing views with the unobstructed skyline of Doha across the harbour.
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