Hello from South Africa, you sugar cubes!! How are you all doing? I’m having one of those moments when my head is bursting with so much happiness and so many new experiences that it freezes and can’t really produce any rational thoughts. Don’t know if this is normal or if I need to seek medical advice for a possible brain defect… Anyway, regardless of how happy I am in this moment of adventures I am still a bit nostalgic about our trip to Qatar with Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority, simply because it was so amazing and different from other places I have visited. It was my first time in the Middle East and I couldn’t help but staring out of the window in some kind of awe as we flew in over the orange/brown Qatari capital in our top-notch airplane.
As you know our visit to Doha was a short trip during a 15 hour layover on our way to Indonesia. Flying with Qatar Airways was a very obvious choice for this rather long journey as the company, first of all, flies to six continents and over 150 destinations, making it very easy to find the flight that best accomodated our schedule and suited our other wishes such as price range etc.. Secondly Qatar Airways has been voted Airline of the Year by Skytrax three times in addition to earning a 5-star rating, which was highly understandable as the service and comfort on the aircraft as well as the airport lounges were impeccable. I understood from the lovely attendants that assisted us that their commitment to the services is paramount as the whole vision of the flight company is that the time spent at the flight should be an experience just as excellent and memorable as the time spent at the destination. And they really succeeded. The food was delicious, the aircraft clean and even the seats in economy class had lots of space that made naps very comfortable (not to mention all the awesome movies, hihi). I really like it when flight companies pay a little extra attention to details and Qatar Airways really does. E.g. we had a little vase with flowers next to us and I really adored the suits worn by the flight attendants.
Apart from all the impressive awards and nominations, what really amazed me with Qatar Airways was their commitment to numerous social projects and charity. Among other programmes, QA supports Educate a Child and the Children’s Brain Tumour Foundation by raising funds, spreading awareness in-flight and by monetary backing.
Hamad International Airport has lounges for everyone, some even with private swimming pools. We had the amazing opportunity as travellers with Qatar Airways to experience the Al Safwa First Lounge and man that place was beautiful, totally like something from an Arabic movie with an indoor fountain and light stemming from a natural source in the ceiling. The lounge and its marble detailing is inspired by the design of the Museum of Islamic Art located at the Corniche in Doha with some ancient Arabic artifects. It really encapsulates the “first class luxury experience” just by itself, but the lounge offers so much more than that. We had a totally mouth-watering à la carte dinner from the Arabic cuisine (though there are also international options available) made from local ingredients, which to me was really special as I had never previously had a full course Arabic meal. It definitely has this unusual mix of sweet and sour but I really liked it! In addition to the lounge also including a luxury spa facility, a cinematic media room, business centre and exclusive family areas, we really got to experience the famous Arabic world-class hospitality that I am certain that I will never forget!
Finally, those with longer than 12 hour layovers in Doha are eligible to several totally amazing and uncomparable offers at the courtesy of Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority. This includes complimentary stays at one of Dohas numerous international 5* hotels (you should totally check in the Soraya Corniche!) and free guided tours around the city that last approximately 2 hours. If it weren’t for this opportunity I don’t think I would have ever discovered the amount of coolness of the Arabic world as we, in this very short period of time, got to see so much of the Qatari heritage, namely:
Souq Waqif – Meaning “the standing market” hosting numerous restaurants, shisha lounges (if you smoke, which I don’t) and stalls where you can buy traditional garments, spices and handicrafts. By many this souq is referred to the most authentic one in the country as the customs and architecture are the same as centuries ago. My favourite part was also the camels chilling nearby, hihi.
Museum of Islamic Art – The first of its kind to feature over fourteen centuries of Islamic art in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Very conveniently located at a peninsula at the end of the Corniche the design is influenced by ancient Arabic architecture, yet looks really modern. It’s a five storied museum with temporary and permanent galleries, a library and super cool cafe. What I also found really fascinating was that the architect, at the age of 91, embarked on a six-month journey around the Muslim world to read ancient texts, visit old building etc. to draw inspiration for his work.
The Corniche – The famous Qatari waterfront promenade extending for several kilometers along Doha Bay. It really offers the most amazing view over the blue water and high sky scrapers over the city and from here you can also walk to the Pearl, which is an over four million sqaure meters artifical island and the first land in Qatar to be available for freehold ownership by foreign nationals.
Katara Cultural Village – A super cool display of Qatari culture with amazing architectural designs. Here you can find two mosques, the iconic Pigeon Towers and the Amphitheater where a lot of events take place, not to mention the beyond beautiful corridors.
All in all, this was a really, really amazing experience that I truly recommend you all to do! Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority really provided us with the best imaginable itinerary. Regarding recent events in the region I did not feel unsafe at all. Just remember to dress modestly in accordance with Qatari values and avoid taking pictures of special buildings and Qatari women without asking for permission (this might be considered provocative). I am certain that you, just as Qatar Airways strives for, will have a world-class experience and part of an unforgettable journey right from the time you board the plane until you reach your final destination.