Italy in Qatar

There may not be Italians in Qatar, but there sure is a huge, Italy-themed mall here. Last night, I finally visited Villaggio, perhaps the most extravagant of all the enormous malls in Doha. By Italy-themed, mind you, I don’t mean that it has Italian stores; it has over two hundred stores for clothing, electronics, sports, food, and more, with all the popular brands (many of them American). No, by Italy-themed I mean that walking through Villaggio is meant to feel like walking through an old Italian village, with naturally curving streets, colorful homes, and clouds in the sky.

And, of course, the Venetian canal…

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Check this out! This is a mall, with a built-in canal!

The first mall I ever went to, and probably the only one I saw for years, was in White Plains, NY. The mall description matched its location – white and plain and pretty regular – but it was exciting to my young eyes. Imagine growing up with a mall that feels like it could have its own mayor!

With Villaggio’s bright lighting and painted blue sky, I felt like I was outside in the middle of the day in perfect weather. But it’s the canal that blew me away. Whose idea was that? How much work did they do to get the water in there? Is it worth it? Hilariously, there are gondolas when you come in, and you can pay for a gondola ride through the mall via canal. I didn’t see anyone doing that, though.

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Me and my “host brother,” 13-year-old Lucas. We’re at the entrance to the mall where the gondolas are!
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This logo really reminded me of “Toys R Us”…hm.

The mall, in addition to regular-sized stores, houses a cinema, IMAX theater, Virgin Megastore, a huge grocery store, and an indoor amusement park with an ice rink (ice rink! in Doha!).

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Probably my worse picture ever, but it gives you a sense of the “Gondolania” indoor amusement park. It manages to keep the Italian theme but also have a rollercoaster! Oh, and I forgot to mention the nearby bowling alley.
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American brands and stores are everywhere, including this weirdly fancy Shake Shack. 
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The area with Shake Shack was also the only part of the mall with a night sky.

Finally, Villaggio has a ‘fancy’ section for all the higher-end shops (Tiffany’s, Bulgari, etc.). Honestly, the whole thing is just ridiculous. It’s certainly an entertaining way to shop, and it’d be an easy place to spend a full day with kids. And since it’s too hot to walk outside in Doha, it makes sense to have such an elaborate indoors, climate-controlled experience. But I know it would drive me crazy before too long.

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The fancy area.
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One last look at the detailed Italian village façades.
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Leaving Villaggio, with the “Torch” tower nearby.

In case you were wondering exactly how rich this city is, I hope this gives an idea.

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4 thoughts on “Italy in Qatar

  1. Vi bokade flyg med ett par nätter i Doha. Hade ingen aning om Doha men fick bra pris för flygen så tänkte “varför inte”. Nu när jag tittar på dina bilder tror jag nog att vi får ett par dagar väl att gå i Doha 😉 Nåt särskilt du skulle rekommendera för en familj som främst skulle stanna nånstans för att bryta upp en lång resa från Downunder men vars mamma nu blev ganska inspirerad?

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  2. Sorry, read a bit too quick your introduction and thought you started from Sweden… just saying that we booked a stop over in Doha as we got such a good price on the tickets. However, we had no idea on Doha, and now that I’ve seen your pics I am really looking forward to it. Anything that you’d especially recommend for us to see/ do when the time is limited?

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    1. Hello,
      No worries, and thanks for the translation 🙂 Doha isn’t the most popular vacation place, so I’m glad my posts have gotten you a bit more excited about it!
      Definitely check out Souq Waqif at night. It’s the restored old-fashioned marketplace, and it’s got lots of fun streets to wander through. It’s best after sunset because that’s when it’s populated and when the weather is tolerable – I had dinner & shisha there last weekend, and it was excellent! Also go to MIA, the Museum of Islamic Art. It’s beautiful and the architecture (designed by the famous I.M. Pei) is fabulous. If you’re here on a Saturday, there’s also a bazaar (like a street fair) in MIA Park, to the right of the museum, from 12pm to 7pm.
      Those are the must-dos. Of course you might want to go to Villaggio too, to get a sense of the crazy malls here 🙂
      I’ve also heard that the Katara Cultural Village is fun, with traditional architecture and an ampitheater and a good place for karak & chapati (special tea & bread). I haven’t been there yet but I plan to go!
      Happy travels!

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