Over the nearly two decades since the network first went on air, Al Jazeera has made a huge impact on the international media scene, but still remained somewhat inaccessible at home in Qatar, despite being Qatari-owned and -operated. The media company receives large amounts of its funding from the government.
The new cafe is an attempt to meet the public face-to-face with planned meet-and-greet sessions with various network media personalities and administrators.
"We wanted to have a direct physical interaction with our audience in a softer [environment]. If people want to visit Al Jazeera, you need to get a permit … and a reason why you need to visit. It’s a long process that we want to cancel. We want people to come here and experience the news-making process and interact with our stars," Mohammed Al Rumaihi, manager of enterprise and merchandise for Al Jazeera, told Doha News .
“It’s a cafe plus a media experience. … People will be able to see how the producer interacts with the presenter, and how the presenters are off-air. [They] will be able to see the gallery, how the cameramen work, everything."
In addition to food, the cafe includes an interactive media studio, a live broadcast unit and a museum exhibit. Visitors to the cafe even have the opportunity to read the news on camera at an open studio complete with a teleprompter and news desk. After recording, the video clip will be emailed to the news anchor-wanabee's inbox.
The museum exhibit features items from Al Jazeera's 19-years of history, including the camera that filmed the first broadcast, clothes warn by a Sudanese journalist who was held at the United States prison in Guantanamo Bay and remnants of the channel's Afghan bureau that was hit by a missile strike.
Of course, the one kink in the project might be the high prices. Doha News reports that the menu pricing can easily rack up bills of hundred of riyals.
If the motivation is to become more accessible, than we're not so sure expensive prices are a good starting point.
But with plans to franchise the concept in other cities around the world, Al Jazeera doesn't seem terribly concerned about costs.