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Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, and Hussain Ibrahim Al Fadala, Director of Al Shamal Municipality at a press briefing. Below: An old mosque at Al Ruwais sea area. (Kammutty VP)
BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
DOHA: Bolstering the tourism potential of Al Shamal Municipality could offer a solution to its dwindling population caused by rural-urban migration, said Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Chairman.
“The drop in population in Al Shamal has been a major challenge to the municipality as more and more of its constituents decide to move to Doha for better opportunities,” said Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, during a visit yesterday to Al Shamal, the last of the exploratory trips to identify tourist spots in all seven municipalities that could be developed to boost the country’s tourism sector.
Al Shamal was once a thriving municipality which was the centre for maritime trade but with the discovery of oil, it lost its charm and people were drawn to the vibrant life in Doha.
According to Qatar Population Status 2012 published by Permanent Population Committee (PPC), as of year 2011 population density in Al Shamal was lowest among the seven municipalities with merely eight persons per sqkm compared to Doha which already reached 3,136 persons per sqkm. Doha’s land area is just a quarter of the total land area of Al Shamal.
Based on the 2010 census conducted by Qatar Statistics Authority, Shamal had the lowest population with merely 7,975 people compared to Doha with population of 796,947.
Al Mohannadi stressed the huge number of prospective sites in the ‘historical’ municipality that could be restored and enhanced to attract tourists in the future.
Al Zubara, Al Rekayat, Al Mafyar, Al Jassasiya, Rakan Island and Umm Tays Island were some of the priority areas in Al Shamal that are being targeted for development which includes setting up facilities including hotels.
“This could create more employment opportunities and improve local economy that could encourage locals to stay in Al Shamal,” he said, adding the government has already established services for the residents in the municipality.
With teeming historical sites like forts, ancient deserted towns, old mosques and palace, Al Shamal has a lot to offer for domestic and regional tourism.
The trip to Al Shamal yesterday concluded QTA’s visits to various municipalities in Qatar, main objective of which was to forge cooperation with municipalities to develop possible tourist spots.
“We have explored all the potential tourist sites which only confirm Qatar has so much to offer and that Doha is not the only option for tourists to visit,” said the QTA Chairman.
The next step, according to him, is to draw a master plan to tie everything together defining first the relationship among concerned sectors including the municipalities, QTA and Qatar Museums Authority.
He did not identify specific time frame for the projects though he expressed hope they would all be completed before year 2022.