Qatar council mulls family-only mall days

If passed, it will restrict singles from entering Qatar’s eight biggest malls one day each weekend, either Friday or Saturday.

The entrance to the Doha City Centre in Doha. Qatar’s only directly elected body is due to discuss a proposal on introducing family-only days at major shopping malls which will likely restrict access for foreign labourers. AFP Photo
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DOHA // Qatar is considering introducing family-only days at major shopping malls in a move dubbed a “bachelor ban” that will likely restrict access for foreign labourers.

The country’s central municipal council (CMC) will be discussing the proposal on December 1.

If passed, it will restrict singles from entering Qatar’s eight biggest malls one day each weekend, either Friday or Saturday. Only families will be allowed to enter on that day.

Many blue-collared male workers who have moved to Qatar without their families would in effect be banned from entering the nation’s most popular malls, potentially on their only off day of the week.

The proposal is being championed by CMC member Nasser bin Ibrahim Al Mohannadi, who claims the presence of male labourers in the malls is intimidating for Qataris, especially women.

“Qatar is a family-based society, and it is the right of families to have a day especially for them,” he said.

“Malls are not just for shopping but also for entertainment and family gatherings.”

Mr Al Mohannadi represents the coastal city of Al Khor, around 50 kilometres north of Doha.

He said Qataris there had complained to him about the “large number” of labourers gathering in one of the city’s malls.

His solution was to revive the idea of a “family day” – a policy previously in place but which had fallen out of favour because it was not enforced.

Mr Al Mohannadi has the backing of one of the two women who sit on the 29-member council, Sheikha Al Jufairi, who described it as “an absolutely essential requirement”, but said that it was not aimed specifically at labourers.

“Families are complaining that they cannot enter the big malls on weekends because of the huge number of labourers,” she said.

“Families suffer and we want to allocate one day, either Friday or Saturday. Moreover, there are many other malls they can use on that family day.

“It is not a matter of labourers. It is a matter of singles and families from all nationalities, even single Qataris. We do not discriminate against anyone.”

The CMC does not have the power to enforce the ban, but has asked the economy and commerce ministry to intervene to ensure malls comply.

An official from that department will attend December’s meeting.

* Agence France-Presse