A long-held vision to position Qatar as a cultural beacon of art, theater, literature, music, visual art, conventions and exhibitions in the Middle East is taking shape with the creation of the Cultural Village Foundation-Katara. General Manager Dr Khalid Bin Ibrahim Al Sulaiti explains how by tapping—and preserving—Qatar’s cultural heritage and traditions to provide both nationals and visitors with a unique opportunity to learn, connect and enjoy the grace of the past in a contemporary setting is building bridges between cultures and promoting a united humanity.
How does the Katara Cultural Village contribute to the National Vision 2030?
The pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030 are meant to serve as a clear roadmap for Qatar’s future. Through full cooperation between public and private sectors, it aims to propel Qatar forward by balancing the accomplishments that achieve economic growth with the human and natural resources.
We at the Cultural Village of Katara take part in this master plan and policy, in accordance with our role as a cultural powerhouse focused on arts, exhibitions and multi-functional theaters, in addition to hosting conferences, seminars and mega cultural events, including festivals and other activities. Our efforts aim to revive heritage and enhance national identity. We also nurture and celebrate talent to enrich our local cultural life.
Currently, we are hosting students of a program titled “Schools enrich our Culture”, where we take them around Katara Cultural Village and introduce them to many societies and activities there so they enjoy discovering, learning and interacting with unique heritage-linked activities.
We believe in community interaction and never envisaged a separation between cultural events and people. Cultural activities further enhance links between generations and various cultures alike. Also, Katara attracts guests, residents and tourists, for it has an established reputation as a rich cultural and tourism destination.
The cultural and investment projects of Katara involve the cultural, economic and social goals which all seek the implementation of Qatar’s National Vision 2030. This takes a lot of relentless efforts to build both institutions and human capital to reach a sustainable economic growth and cultural development.
How is Katara building bridges between different cultures?
As a leading cultural powerhouse in Qatar and throughout the Middle East, Katara serves as a guardian of the heritage and traditions of Qatar, and endeavors to spread awareness about the importance of every culture and civilization. As such, Katara last year hosted more than 170 local and international cultural events, including festivals, workshops, conferences, performances and exhibitions. Our activities attract multinational audiences who connect and network all the time to boost dialogue and bridge gaps between cultures.
For the first time in the Middle East, Katara recently hosted a new edition of the “Oscar Della Lirica” award ceremony in the world of opera and classical music that brings the ambiance of both east and west together.
So is Katara effectively a world-class hub with a deep cultural role?
We are proud of our heritage and believe that tracking the etymology of Qatar throughout history is both useful and interesting given Qatar’s cultural and educational wealth. Therefore, Katara focuses on launching great heritage and cultural festivals such as “The Senyar Championship”, an annual marine competition comprised of fishing and pearl diving contests for Qatari nationals.
Katara also organizes “The Traditional Dhow Festival”, an integral part of the folklore of Qatar and other Gulf states, seeking the revival of maritime heritage, and the “Halal Qatar Festival” focused on displaying methods related to the breeding of sheep. We are tapping our cultural richness to provide both nationals and visitors a unique opportunity to learn, connect and enjoy.
This cultural richness plays a very important role in promoting and building Qatari society. The attachment to our ancient roots, together with premeditated modernization and technological advancement, form the solid foundation of the Qatari personality and values.
Could you tell us about the upcoming Katara Plaza development?
The Katara Plaza, an open-air shopping mall concept in the cultural district of Katara, brings a new experience that combines retail, hospitality, and entertainment with global brands, art and culture.
The iconic commercial plaza comprises shops, departmental stores, office spaces, service apartments, and a unique mall for children. It is infused within the fabric of what makes Katara such a unique and valuable location in Qatar, introducing an all-round experience to visitors. And though we are working to transform the cultural district into an economically profitable cultural institution, we still believe that culture comes first and that investment must support it.
The classical Victorian-inspired architectural designs add to the allure of Katara Plaza as a place of wonder, wellness, and an enriching, family-friendly lifestyle. The project is like a cultural scene that brings together the wealth of heritage, modernity and investment.
What’s the level of your co-operation with other national and global organizations, such as UNESCO, to promote the Qatari cultural environment?
We at Katara have established a great network of strategic partnerships and have inked many agreements to boost our cultural business and agenda. We are so grateful to our partners for their constant support.
On the other hand, we’ve inked agreements and partnerships with several local and international parties in an attempt to materialize our cultural and humanitarian messages, such as the co-operation agreement with the Gulf Organization for Research and Development (GORD) to enhance the concept of sustainability in urban environment.
That agreement includes conducting training workshops in the field and co-operation in related scientific researches.
We at Katara, for example, have also signed a co-operation agreement with the International Public Relations Association – Gulf Chapter (IPRA-GC) to develop the skills and abilities of Qatari nationals working in the public relations field so they can contribute with more efficiency to the country’s development plan.
Among several other agreements I also recall one we’ve signed with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to assist in building more resilient and peaceful communities in the Middle East and North Africa. For a whole year, we’ve donated all the revenues of Katara’s open-air theater to that humanitarian cause.
Moreover, Katara has signed agreements with the Arab-Spanish House Organization and has renewed its co-operation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to enrich the interaction and co-operation experience through cultural exchange.
Our partnership and co-operation agreements range from ministries and museums to globally renowned organizations to serve our strategies and vision, and introduce Katara as an international player in a competitive market. Our strategic partners’ support in that regard keeps us in the race to excellence and quality.
What are your top projects and goals in 2016?
Katara Cultural Village is speeding up to complete vital parts of its grand project, such as The Mall, Fountains and the Katara Hills. Currently, we are in the final phase of projects and on schedule to meet our completion deadline. Once inaugurated, these new projects will add great value to Katara, and will further boost our image as an international landmark.
The new projects extend over a sizable distance within Katara Cultural Village, and include a unique and distinctive mall for children built over two stories of vast basement parking. The Mall will house exclusive local, regional and international retailers as well as world-renowned franchises and brands. The Katara Fitness Center Facility, which involves the construction of a fitness center comprising a ground floor and two additional floors, will overlook the Cultural Village beach from the side of The Pearl-Qatar Island. The 5,000 square meter commercial center in the heart of the Katara development will be located in the west side of the Katara Cultural Village, and will comprise all the key features and facilities of retail entertainment with a touch of culture and art, and a view overlooking the Fountain area.
The Katara Hills development is targeted to be a venue for high-class VIPs and celebrities, providing a luxurious lifestyle together with an authentic and enriching cultural experience. 133 out of 383 villas will have 4-9 bedrooms each, while another 250 residential units will have 2-4 bedrooms.
How are you branding Katara internationally?
Katara has established a reputation as a top tourist destination in Qatar due to many reasons, including its charming location as it stretches between the sea and the hills, in addition to its design, architecture, and variety of its cultural hubs, events and activities. It is also famous for hosting a great chain of international restaurants to satisfy all tastes, not forgetting the cultural performances reflecting the richness of Qatar’s culture and heritage. Katara is the place you want to visit if you are looking for entertainment and culture under one roof. We invite American tourists to come and discover Katara, and get introduced to limitless multicultural experiences.
What was your key contribution to promoting Katara Cultural Village regionally and on the international level? And how would that help in enhancing efforts to promote Qatar on the global map?
It is no secret that we at Katara are seeking global recognition and status. Our promotion campaigns are based on the variety and high quality of the art and cultural experiences we offer. As I’ve mentioned earlier, dozens of strategic partnerships and agreements were signed with local and international top players to help us provide better services and attract more visitors to our hub. We also have a good media strategy and arm that help us convey our messages to the local community and the world. Representatives of international media networks are now frequent visitors to Katara and their coverage of our news and events help us get more media exposure most of the time.
Katara Cultural Village also attracts visiting heads of states, ambassadors, VIPs and celebrities, and that helps our image as a cultural powerhouse and the image of Qatar as a whole.
Katara’s non-stop cultural diversity festivities showcase the best of local and international cultures, and with our unshakable commitment to promoting culture, art, peace and love between nations, we will continue to perfect our services and introduce new unique initiatives to serve our goals and our country’s vision.
How did your knowledge and financial background help you run a cultural organization seeking self-sufficiency in the near future?
As you know Katara, the cultural organization, has its investment projects and we are keen to make these investment projects live and grow in complete harmony with our cultural activities. The Katara team and myself invest all our experience in achieving that prime goal. Moreover, we use our profits to spend more on culture and quality services.
Soon, Katara Cultural Village will witness a new leap in its performance, services and programs, to further live up to Qatar’s vision and aspirations to reach more advancement and become a country with a knowledge-based economy to provide even better living standards and sustainable development for all in Qatar.