A civil/structural engineer by education, with experience in construction sites and design offices, Kareem Shamma, CEO of Doha Festival City (DFC), moved into project management of largescale projects and joined DFC in 2012, just before it broke ground. According to Shamma, DFC shouldn’t be seen as just a retail project, but instead as a destination that features large-scale entertainment unlike any other in the whole region. As if to prove his point, Shamma draws attention to Juniverse, a project aimed at harnessing the power of dynamic learning to inspire, educate and entertain, as well as Virtoucity, a plan to merge the virtual world with reality and thus deliver an immersive digital experience.
“Snow Dunes will be Qatar’s first indoor snow park themed around a fantastical Arabian town set in the distant past,” Shamma adds. “Angry Birds, the global gaming sensation and Hollywood blockbuster movie from Sony Entertainment will also launch its first theme park at the mall. Additionally, VOX Cinemas is also set to revolutionize the cinema experience for audiences in Qatar with 18 digital screens including four new concepts -4DX, Theatre by Rhodes, MAX and VOX Kids– which are exclusive to DFC.” With all this and more headed to Qatar, what DFC will offer is an experience like no other, Shamma reiterates.
According to Shamma, DFC has been envisioned as a family entertainment and leisure destination, with options aplenty for every age group. The USPs of DFC, in Shamma’s opinion are, first, the entertainment zone, and, second, the number of firsts that DFC will have introduced in terms of the combination of entertainment and retail. “For instance, the Harvey Nichols store is a first in Qatar, and [it] has signed with us as the one and only sanctioned store in the country,” Shamma notes. “Then, Ace Hardware, which is a very popular brand hailing from the Philippines, again a first in Qatar- [these are] just a few of the firsts.”
At the same time, the inclusion of known brands, such as Debenhams, H&M, BHS, Centrepoint, and M&S, has been done keeping in mind that these are the familiar brands that shoppers who come to malls want to see. So, these brands add a certain comfort factor to the shoppers who come here. “They need to be there to give that feeling of familiarity to our shoppers. The hypermarket Monoprix is the largest in the world, 7,000 square meters. Ikea was again a first when it came in in March 2013, in addition to Muji’s and The Fragrance Kitchen,” Shamma adds. “Thirdly, DFC’s world-class management is on a par with any other global location, an aggregation of global best practices as far as mall management goes.”
Shamma also draws attention to the bespoke Sculpted Torus, created by artist and sculptor David Harber in the Mall’s Centre Court. The sculpture, four meters in diameter, is an adaptation of David Harber Ltd.’s iconic Torus, and is part of a series of five variations that will be installed at DFC. It is made from mirror-polished, marine grade stainless steel, and will sit alongside a succession of smaller, two-meter high Torus– all of which will be slight variations of the original design.
Harber is also producing a four-meter high bronze Keystone Ring, with a Verdigris finish to be located outside one of the main entrances to DFC, and is currently designing some hanging tree canopies to be placed in the two glass atria of the North Food Court. Adding to all of these features are the smart mall initiatives of DFC, with Shamma explaining that the mall has a digital advertising model that hinges on unique screens made for this purpose.
“We have unique vehicle management systems in the car parking and an interactive website. To make it easier for our guests, we also have digital way finders, which will be conveniently located throughout the mall. Spread out over a total site area of 433,000 sq. m., our interactive directory is sure to be of assistance for those seeking guidance on any of our 500 leading retailers and extensive entertainment offerings. Whilst traditional printed Mall Guides will also be available, digital way finding offers a quick and easy alternative and visitors can also search events, offers and find out what entertainment is happening in the mall,” Shamma explains.
With a gross leasable area of 244,000 sq. m. (just to understand the mall’s size, its area covers 94 football pitches), one wonders if the prevailing slump in retail spending will affect DFC’s ability in finding the tenants it needs to achieve the required space efficiency. To that, Shamma replies, “Yes, of course, we have achieved a very good efficiency, having crossed 70%, which is above the global average benchmark for efficiency, in terms of industry standards.”
Refuting the logic of a retail slump, Shamma adds, “We are, to an extent, hedged in that sense. We have a limited dependence on pure retail and have varied entertainment offerings. When is it a bad time for people to be entertained? Particularly in times of economic hardships, there are stuff that they will always need and buy, even if it is not luxury. The diversity of the project allows for hedging and does not over-expose us to retail or any other single avenue. Also, there is a variety of other offerings across income brackets and across price points.”
Shamma also refutes the suggestion that online shopping and e-commerce can ever replace physical malls, stating, “Even though e-commerce and online shopping have caught on tremendously, they cannot substitute the experience of actually touching and feeling as one shops, especially in this part of the world."
"There is something unique about physically shopping that online purchase can never offer. No matter how much one sits in front of one’s screen, one can’t simulate a snow-slope gliding experience or tobogganing, and that is where we will always score over online purchases. DFC is a community meeting place, for Qataris, by Qataris and for everyone who lives in Qatar.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Doha Festival City
• Project cost: Over QAR6 billion
• Groundbreaking date: October 19, 2011
• Completion date: 5 April 2017
• Location: Umm Salal Muhammed, Qatar
• Land used: 433,847 sq. m.
• Gross building area: 670.000 sq. m.
• Gross leasable area: 244,000 sq. m.
• Expected footfall: 1.6 million visitors each month
• Car parking spaces: 8,000 units
• Retail units: over 500
• Entrances: 29
• Floors: Two floors of retail, four floors of car parking
A look at DFC's eco-friendly initiatives
• Building designed for maximum daylight usage with 10,230 sq. m. glass installed throughout the building
• Energy-efficient cooling plant to minimize electrical load
• LED lighting for reduced power usage longer life
• Reduced water usage through
• Water efficient taps and cisterns in the bathrooms
• Recycling rain water through use of retention tanks which collect the rain water and the blow down water from our chiller plant
• Recycled water is then used for irrigation for the outdoor landscape and recreational areas on the site
• Majority of landscape designed using native or adaptive plant reducing the amount of water consumed