Qatar Takes Outdoor Air-Conditioning Technology Used During World Cup to Parks

Since the start of summer, Aicha and her sisters have visited malls and gaming areas in Qatar to keep their children entertained and, more importantly, find some respite from the intense heat.

The Qatari government employee says they have longed to spend time outside for several days.

“Today, we have come to Umm Al Seneem park,” says Aicha, 27. “The outdoor air-conditioning here is excellent.”

With temperatures between 45°C and 47°C and humidity levels soaring every day, Qatar is sweltering under intense heat this summer.

However, air-conditioned parks with running tracks are becoming popular with citizens and residents, complementing the high-end malls to which many sought refuge from the heat in the past.

There are three such venues in the country and Umm Al Seneem Park is the newest, having been opened in November, a few weeks before the start of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, when the country’s air-conditioned football arenas were making headlines.

With a 1.14km track circling the park, Umm Al Seneem holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest air-conditioned outdoor path”.

Air-conditioned parks with running tracks. Photo: Ankita Dwivedi

The technology is the same as the one used in Qatar’s football stadiums, and solar panels generate at least 60 per cent of the electricity used by the air conditioners.

Additionally, to maintain the 26°C temperature, climber plants cover the tracks from all directions and help to keep the heat out.

It is a Wednesday evening, and families and fitness enthusiasts begin to stream into the park shortly after 4pm.

Aicha places the stroller carrying her nine-month-old baby over a cooling vent while her toddler runs the length of the track. She and her two sisters sit close by, hoping to catch some of the crisp air gushing out of the vents.

“See how happy my baby is in the stroller! We have driven 20 minutes to get here, but it is worth it,” she says. “We hope, in the future, that more places such as this come up. While we enjoy the malls, this is better for the children.”

A little distance away, Abdullah Amir, a defence sector employee from Pakistan, has finished walking around the track and is going to fetch his children from the play area.

“I have been in Qatar for a year and I really enjoy walking outdoors. But the weather now is not suitable for it,” he says.

“I had heard about this park during the World Cup but this is my first time here and I really like it. The children can play while I finish my steps.”

The children’s play area at Umm Al Seneem park . Photo: Ankita Dwivedi

Mr Amir, a father of three, believe there should be one day a week when the air-conditioned track should only be open to serious joggers and walkers.

“Right now, there are a lot of children and others strolling or cycling in the area,” he says.

Having visited another air-conditioned park in Qatar, he says the cooling at Umm Al Seneem is “very good”.

Nearby, standing on a small green hill, Moin Khan, 39, is on a video call, pointing his phone towards the cooled outdoor path to show it to his family in Pakistan.

A driver with a private company, he says he has been visiting the park at least two to three times a week.

“After a long day at work, I come here and do a few rounds of the track. It is very relaxing. When I told my family about it, they couldn’t believe it,” says Mr Khan, who has been living in Qatar for more than a year.

The park can hold up to 6,000 visitors at a time. About 68 per cent of the park is covered by vegetation, with its 912 trees and 820 square metres of long green walls also helping to maintain optimum temperatures.

“I usually don’t take my phone to the park but today I got it just to show the outdoor air-conditioning to my parents and children,” Mr Khan says.

Today, he has also called some of his friends to the park, and the group plans to catch up over some food until closing time, at midnight.

The park’s security supervisor, Peter, says the air conditioning is switched on at 3pm and switched off at 11pm.

“After that, the people start to leave. We also see higher footfall over the weekend,” he says, as he completes his evening rounds.

Ali Fouani and his wife Sara. Photo: Ankita Dwivedi

“Apart from the joggers and walkers, a lot of people come to use the open gym, which is close to the air-conditioned track.”

After nightfall, the crowd starts growing. Ali Fouani and his wife Sara find a seat in the play area and hope to “smell some fresh air”.

“We live 10 minutes away. We walk and our child plays, all outdoors! We have travelled to Dubai and Europe but I haven’t seen anything like this before. We have been recommending the place to all our friends,” says Ali, a Qatar Airways employee.

His wife says they will spend two to three hours at the park and leave when their three-year-old child gets tired.

“It’s very hard to keep children indoors. This works for us,” she says.


The National News

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