After more than two decades as a location renowned for innovation and knowledge, Education City is expanding in a new direction.
As well as being home to prestigious universities and schools, cutting-edge research centers and laboratories, a string of new developments are under way to further increase public accessibility to the flagship community of Qatar Foundation (QF). The plans are ambitious and multi-faceted, including world-class hotels, thoughtfully designed public open space, high level sports, and recreation facilities.
The idea is to cater to the needs of an increasingly sophisticated and diverse clientele: the rising number of international and regional travellers drawn to Qatar National Convention Centre for conferences every month, as well as Doha residents in general.
Engineer Jassim Telefat, Group Executive Director, QF Capital Projects, Facilities Management and HSSE, explained that QF was interested in finding new ways to maximize the benefits of Education City to the wider community.
“There are several projects, newly-completed or under construction, in Education City that focus on a common theme of improving health and well-being, in line with QF’s mission to develop human potential,” said Engineer Telefat. “Traditionally, Education City has been a hub for academics, professionals, and students. However, it is now time to make it a destination with wider appeal to the general public, both within and outside Qatar.”
When more than 10,000 people flocked to Education City to take part in QF’s National Sport Day activities in February 2016, the prime focus for the action was Oxygen Park, an impressive 130,000 sqm green space created near the Hamad bin Khalifa University Student Center.
The occasion provided an insight into the potential of the space. Developed for recreation and sports as well as large outdoor public events, key features include 7,000m of pathways, a covered walkway, a 1,600m running track, an equestrian track, sports pitches, and sculptured gardens containing more than 100 plant species.
Muna Al Sulaiti, Project Manager, explained that the landscape design was based on a theme of ‘Qatar in Spring’, incorporating natives such as Arabic Gum, Ghaf, Samar, Salam, and Sidra trees, among a number of local shrubs.
“The idea of Oxygen Park is to introduce a green lung in the campus, inviting students and visitors alike to refresh their mind, body, and spirit through active exercise, relaxation, and exploration,” said Al Sulaiti.
“It is creating a welcoming contrast to the daily routine of academic and professional life. It was designed to bring a unique identity to the campus within the framework of native and near native planting, water-efficient planting, and ample provision of shade.”
The concept of healthy living is also at the core of the prestigious new Al Shaqab Hotel, which is managed by QF member AMLAK Holding. Launched in January and located on the grounds of the world-renowned AL SHAQAB Equestrian Center in Education City, the 70-room boutique hotel provides guests with plenty of opportunities for indoor and outdoor recreation.
Guests are encouraged to take riding lessons or a complimentary tour of the equestrian center. They have access to the exclusive Marwan Club, which includes a swimming pool, a childrens’ pool, steam room, sauna, and a state-of-the-art fitness zone. The club also offers personal training sessions, and a diverse schedule of exercise classes.
While adults enjoy a workout or a swim, they can entrust their children to the team of trained childcare specialists at the Kids’ Zone, where little ones can enjoy specially tailored fitness classes such as children's Zumba, as well as arts and crafts, cooking, and painting. Guests don’t even have to venture out of their door to get a workout if they don’t want to, as fitness equipment is included as standard in every room.
Taking the mantra of well-being even further, the hotel’s signature restaurant, Chef’s Garden, is already creating a buzz for its exquisitely presented dishes and its attractive outdoor terrace setting. The restaurant embraces a ‘farm-to-table’ ethos, using local, organic produce whenever possible, sourced from the namesake on-site garden and Qatar farms. In a similar vein, AL SHAQAB’s Juicery offers health-conscious guests a wide variety of freshly pressed juices, smoothies, and homemade granola.
“We’re very conscious of featuring a healthy lifestyle when it comes to our hotels as well as our food and beverage offerings,” said Karim Abdelhamid, Amlak’s Corporate Director of Hospitality & Leisure and the General Manager of Al Shaqab Hotel.
“For example, at our restaurant, we are promoting local farmers, encouraging sustainability, and providing access to food items which you don’t easily find in Doha. We are also focused on bringing families and communities together.”
Abdelhamid pointed out that the facilities aimed to cater to Qatar residents as well as visitors. The Marwan Club offers private memberships for singles, couples, and families, with additional benefits such as discounts on room rates at Al Shaqab and meals at Chef’s Garden.
Additionally, Marwan Club members will get priority access when one of QF’s most anticipated new projects, Qatar International Golf Club, opens.
With the possibility that the first stage could be open as early as this year, the unique facility will be the only one of its kind on the planet, incorporating a Championship 18-hole course designed by former Ryder Cup captain José María Olazábal, a nine-hole course, and a world-first six-hole championship course.
Mohammed Al Naimi, Deputy General Manager, Qatar International Golf Club, said the unique design would allow people of different skill levels to play together, demonstrating how golf was an accessible, inclusive family game for players of all ages and abilities. As well as promoting an active outdoor lifestyle, he added that the club would emphasize the importance of health and physical fitness as well as allowing people to enjoy the natural environment.
A connected community
Whether walking through Oxygen Park, relaxing at Al Shaqab Hotel, or enjoying the atmosphere of the Qatar International Golf Club, another common thread through Education City’s new projects is their very inter-connectedness.
All of these projects are intended to compliment each other and be easily accessible, from within and outside Education City. To this end, an agreement has been forged between Capital Projects, AMLAK Holding, and Doha Bus to extend its ‘hop-on, hop-off’ tourist service to key Education City spots. The new route, launched earlier this year, includes Al Shaqab Hotel, Qatar National Convention Centre, and several of Education City’s universities.
In the longer term, the introduction of Qatar’s new rail service will make Education City even more accessible for Doha residents and international visitors alike.
“Through continually improving the facilities available at Education City, we are creating a vibrant, engaging destination for people from all walks of life,” said Engineer Jassim Telefat. “Twenty years after it was first established, this is a maturing community that has the capacity to cater to a wide range of interests.”