Thursday, March 28, 2013
Qatar International Food Festival
Tonight was the first night of the Food Festival, held at the park of the Museum of Islamic Art. Essentially, a lot of hotels and restaurants set up tents so you can purchase a wide variety of food and watch the free entertainment.
To my surprise there were fairly big crowds.
I think the crowds were greater than the organizers anticipated. You can't use cash to buy the food, you have to purchase vouchers. This meant that at some voucher booths the lineups were fairly long. Some of the voucher booths weren't even open, I'm not sure why. The festival started at 6pm tonight and I didn't get there till around 8:30 so maybe those booths had sold out of vouchers or something. [Note: Going forward the festival starts at 1 or 2pm depending on the day, check the website for timings.]
I’m trying to lose weight so I started off with a chicken breast sandwich from Diet House Restaurant. It was pretty good. Then I went to a place a couple of tents down that sold salads and had a salad with pomegranates.
Nice view with dinner!
I still had vouchers left so I then went to the Thai Corner tent for some ginger chicken, and finished it off with a mini chocolate cupcake from the Kempinski. I'd say there were over two dozen tents offering various cuisines. Prices were decent with most food around QAR 15-20 and plenty of tents offering smaller snacks for QAR 5-10.
While there were lots of guys running around taking away the trash and placing new garbage bags in the bins I think the unexpected turnout was such that while they were able to keep up with the bins around the tents a few bins on the outskirts weren’t getting tidied as often so trash started to build up.
In between meals I watched the entertainment. There was a jazz band.
And later some electric violinists.
All in all it was worth while. I believe the festival is on for three more nights so I might go again on Saturday night with some friends.
Here's my tips if you're interested in attending:
1) Parking will NOT be available at the museum! Qatari security guards were at the MIA gate turning the cars away. I think you can only drive in if you're working with one of the restaurants or you’re a VIP. There are apparently parking zones with shuttle buses to take you to the park but I have no idea where they are (I walked to the park from home) and the website doesn't appear to show where they are. Ask around where the parking is, maybe qatarliving.com forums has it, or arrange for drop-off and pick-up with a car service. Be careful about drop-off though -- the security guards were even yelling at drivers who are trying to stop at the gate to drop people off (TONS of cars were driving up to the gate so stopping to drop people off would start to cause gridlock).
2) Scout around first and get an idea of the prices and about how much you are going to be spending. Vouchers are sold in books of QAR 40, separated into eight 5-riyal tickets. Since the lineups can be long to get the vouchers it is better that you have a good idea of how many vouchers you'll need and purchase them all at once. Also, you have to pay a service fee of QAR 10 for your first voucher purchase, which is fine (I consider it like an entry fee), but if you go back to purchase more voucher books they might try to charge the QAR 10 fee again because it’s difficult to determine if you've purchased vouchers before.
3) Voucher booths are scattered around the area but the ones at the back, near the health food section, seem to have shorter queues than the ones near the main stage. Hopefully over the weekend they'll have more booths open.
4) There are plenty of options for 5 riyal if you looking to get rid of that last voucher or two so don’t worry about being left with vouchers.
5) Keep some 1 riyal bills with you. Many of the stalls sell water or soda for 1 or 2 riyal and will accept cash for it so you don't have to waste a 5 riyal ticket.
6) There are many benches and tables scattered around but consider bringing a picnic blanket and sitting on the grass. Another possibility is to sit by the seawall with a view of the museum.