You won’t get lost finding this one!
In a 2-part series we explore Al Rumailah Park which spans some 105,000 unfenced, square metres of green alongside Corniche Street.
What’s Special: Rollerblading track
Rumailah tops the list of most popular parks in Doha — and with reason. First and foremost, a newcomer can easily locate it. The park (also known as Al Bidda) spans some 105,000 unfenced, square metres of green alongside Corniche Street. You’d have to be looking the other way to not see it, which you might well do because the views of the Gulf and the skyline are head-turners.
Under the harsh light of the noon sun, Rumailah has a bit of a run-down feel to it. Visitors of a theatrical bent and a positive outlook will utilise the opportunity to pretend they’re in a ghost town. Visitors of a more sociable bent will come in the evening when it really gets hopping, especially on the weekend. Many families bring folding chairs, chess sets and blankets to lounge the night away, even on the most humid of summer nights. Many more thousands of visitors romp the slopes on December 18th when Rumailah is the Grand Stage for the annual National Day Parade.
Rumailah was built in 1996 with a slew of amenities such as a large playground with multiple play structures, a few kiosks, a restaurant, shops, water canal and lake, open-air theatre and a mosque. Of special note is the half-pipe and short rollerblading track, two amenities not often seen at parks in Qatar.
As with all the parks along the Corniche, parking is in hot demand on the weekends. Get there before 6 pm to find an empty spot or you may be double-parking.
Long gone are the days when a Ferris wheel, trains and boats jostled for attention under light-encased palm trees. Now a variety of play equipment caters mostly to the under-sex but inquisitive older children will also be content to climb here for a spell. For the youngest of the young, there are miniature slides. Car-obsessed toddlers can swing on the swings conveniently facing Corniche Road. A clear view of the Gulf means you will also see the occasional passing dhow. Other conveniences are also available. A water dispenser is located at the edge of the playground near the kiosk. Mucky water-sand play is encouraged. Bring a shovel, bucket and a full change of clothing. At all times it is advisable to wear shoes to protect against any soda can tabs hiding in the sand surrounding the playground. A few benches are located immediately next to the playground but most visitors bring a blanket to spread under the trees nearby. One convenience missing is shade at the playground; you would be wise to wear sunscreen and hats or to time your visit, particularly in the summer, to coincide with the evening hours, as most do.
Weekend evenings the half-pipe is an anthill of raucous, sugar-jacked, life-loving children, and the occasional free-wheeling biker. Self-regulation functions and few collisions occur. Nonetheless, some parents find observing is a lesson in deep breathing. The energy here is fuelled by the nearby Yes Cafeteria (see below).
Running parallel to the sidewalk on the eastern side of the park, is a paved track which, at first casual glance, can be mistaken for a nonsensical sidewalk. The kids know better and use it for their rollerblading, roller skating, and (small) biking joy-rides. It has enough curves in it to keep it from becoming a straight-shot racetrack but not so many to be obstacles for beginners. Before using you may want to check it for summer heat damage. Tip: rollerblades outfitted with neon-lit wheels equals spectacular kid fun.
Kiosks & Restaurants
Kiosk. Located near playground. Hours: 3 pm – 3 am.
The name (only visible in Arabic script) brings to mind sunsets and mixed drinks. You won’t find mixed drinks here but some claim it has the best hot chocolate in town. Other items for your gustatory pleasure include teas, coffee, juices, soft drinks, burgers, popcorn and sweet corn. More exotic drinks, such as Karkadhi, Zaather, Horlicks, and Vimto, are also available. Prices range from QR1 for a ginger tea to QR10 for fresh Orange Juice; burgers cost about QR5. For a filling snack try the samosas and have a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Not hungry? Then top up your supply of bubbles, snow spray and plastic toys.
Maha al Khaleej Cafeteria
“Gazelle of the Gulf”. Kiosk. Located near the open-air theatre.
A small kiosk serving up a steady supply of delightful calories in the form of sweet corn, candy, chips and canned juice. The usual assortment of hot and cold drinks are available, as are burgers and fries. Popcorn sells faster than can be popped, priced at QR2 for a small bag.
Restaurant. Located near open-air theatre. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 am – 10:30 pm; Friday-Saturday 12 pm-10:30 pm. Phone: 4431 6466. Cash & all major credit cards accepted.
That’s correct — Thai Smile, not the more celebrated Thai Snack. Since opening in 2010 Thai Smile has been a word-of-mouth secret. Follow the canal to its northern end at the open-air theatre and you’ll find the Smile.
Indoor and outdoor seating is available. If you choose indoor seating, your meal will be accompanied by quiet, Thai music videos of the dramatic sort involving tears and thigh-banging. Seating is available for about 50 people. It sees some heavy traffic on weekends, but there’s usually at least one table available. The main dining area is functional, with a cosier side room. The cooks are Thai, as is the staff. The majority have minimal English and seem dis-inclined to linear movement — don’t expect detailed explanations or quick service — but it all adds up to an authentic Doha experience.
Finding a great dish can be hit or miss. But when it’s a hit, it’s a steaming hit. Obb Woon Sen (crab or shrimp roasted with bean noodles) is an absolutely, addictive saline delight. Mango Salad and Seafood Tom Yam are yum. Go for the Goong Choup Paeng Tod, if you like deep-fried shrimp; the Sweet Chili Sauce is more sweet than spicy making it perfect for those on the low end of the spice tolerance scale. Appetizers cost between QR15 -20. Most main dishes cost between QR22-30. Aside from the whole roasted duck (QR100) portions are human-sized. The food may not be truly authentic Thai but it is still apt to satisfy cravings in those inclined to Thai food.
A small washroom cubicle is available for your hand-cleansing needs. There are no toilet facilities inside the restaurant but the wash basin is one of the funkiest in Doha. As are the neon name tags on some of the wait staff. It’s the little things, isn’t it?
To pay, simply go to the counter. While you’re waiting for your bill to be rung up, admire the origami perched on the bamboo house that serves as a tip jar. If you’re feeling frisky, insert a tip into the roof’s cleavage.
Since I’m sure you’re wondering: Thai Smile sits smack dab in the middle of a niche primed for the taking but, alas, they provide neither take away nor delivery. If you ask nicely, they may pack up any “leftovers” you’d like to take “home”. They have another (even better reviewed) branch near the airport across from the old Dasman Center which serves your take away and delivery needs (Tel: 4441 5222).
Kiosk. Located near half-pipe. Hours: 24 hours.
At peek weekend evening hours this kiosk puts one in mind of a snickers bar being nibbled away by a colony of ants. The ‘ants’ come from the hillside nearby that holds the half-pipe. That hotbed of energy naturally jumbles over to the nearest kiosk where childhood fortunes are invested in delicacies such as the popular rainbow-colored ice pops, blue cotton candy, pink popcorn, primary-coloured plastic toys (filled, of course, with rainbow colored candy), shrill whistles and plush toys. More discerning taste buds are advised to refresh with chilled Lemon Nana (QR3) accompanied by decent enough samosas (QR1 for 2 pieces). Yes Cafeteria carries a broad range of food including falafels, Tandoori Special, burgers, cheese sandwich, Hamour fish fillets, fries, fruit salad, nachos, pumpkin seeds and chips (QR1 per bag). They sell the usual array of drinks such as fresh juice, Nescafe, tea and sodas. Yes, that is correct, Yes Cafeteria is open 24 hours a day.
(In the concluding part we look at the other attractions in Rumailah Park. Stay tuned.)