Posted on February 01, 2018

The Souq Waqif shopping tours, which were organised for the first time at Shop Qatar 2018, provided an added value to the festival letting expatriates and international tourists experience a slice of local culture through authentic Qatari way of shopping. Amal Al Shammari, CEO of Embrace Doha, who partnered with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) to provide the unique service, said she was surprised with the success the tours enjoyed as many people availed of the service.

In its inaugural edition, nine tours were organised throughout the festival which were divided into family, women’s and men’s tours. The tours took people to important, unknown sections in the popular souq where Qataris generally purchase their requirements. “I wasn’t really optimistic about it but then I was shocked because people wanted to know these things. Many of them said they had been to Souq Waqif a lot of times but never went that far because we took them deep inside the Souq to show them the shops that our parents would go and buy things from,” Al Shammari told local media.

From shops which offer items needed to prepare Karak to those that sell Bukhoor and Arabic perfumes to the spice and fabric shops, the tours gave the participants a different view of the Souq Waqif popular to tourists for its long line of international restaurants, shisha lounges and cafes. “The service is called ‘Shop the Qatari way’ in which we take people to certain stations in Souq Waqif where Qataris usually go and buy, teach them how to distinguish between good and bad products and how to bargain,” she explained.

The participants did not only comprise expatriates but also international tourists such as those who came to Doha through cruise ships and tourists transiting for several hours, she said.  “We design something for them to give them an idea of what Doha is. We handle everything to make it easy for them and their family to get to know Qatar instead of wasting their time trying to find out where to go or what to do,” she said. She was satisfied of the turnout saying: “Feedback was really good. I, myself, enjoyed going with them. I will do it maybe in a bigger scale next year. I would love to do it both in Souq Waqif and Souq Al Wakrah, focusing not only on providing people traditional shopping experience but also on telling them the history of the souqs.”

Born and raised in a big family of Bedouin heritage, Al Shammari is passionate about preserving Qatari culture amid modernization though Embrace Doha, a company she founded in 2014. “Embrace Doha is the first cultural consulting company in Qatar. What we are doing is mainly to build a bridge between the expatriate and Qatari community by offering cultural sessions and business protocol and etiquette to expats in a way that will introduce Qatari culture and traditions to them,” she explained. She explained the tours and services Embrace Doha provides are more than just business as they sell something intangible which is deeply aligned with Qatar National Vision 2030 as the country transitions from carbon-based to knowledge-based economy.

“One of the challenges is how we can modernize without losing our identity by preserving our culture. Embrace Doha contributes to this by teaching and giving others opportunity to know and understand Qatari culture,” she said.

source: The Peninsula