Benalla Travel’s Fiona Stephens flight-tests Qatar Airways’ Business Class, stopping over in the culturally rich city of Doha, with its wealth of art museums, cultural sites and the unashamedly unique Mondrian Doha hotel.
One has high expectations travelling on Qatar Airways’ multiple award winning ‘World’s Best Business Class’. With a focus on putting the passenger’s travel experience first, Qatar has certainly set the benchmark high, with its unparalleled level of service, spacious suites, and the ‘dine on demand’ approach which lets you order anything from the extensive menu at any time during your flight.
Pictured above: Mondrian Doha’a domed fantasia pool and indoor garden. Designer Marcel Wanders’ takes visitors through a kaleidoscopic flow of colour and textures reflecting local Qatari patterns.
If you’re simply transiting in Doha, the Al Mourjan Business Lounge at Hamad International Airport is something out of the ordinary. Its contemporary, sleek design feels like indulging in a luxury hotel, complete with two restaurants, conference rooms, quiet areas to relax, cocktails bars; plus multiple shower suites to help you freshen up – believe it or not it’s difficult to leave behind.
But in our case, we chose to make Doha a more lengthy stop over, and for good reason. If travelling from Australia to any of Qatar Airways’ more than 160 destinations worldwide (including over 55 European cities), Doha offers a great wealth of experiences allowing visitors to connect with nomadic Bedouin culture and vast collections of global art. The city is one of the most progressively modern hubs in the Middle East and exudes a sophisticated attitude, while acknowledging and displaying its rich and at times very controversial cultural past.
The stunning I.M. Pei designed, Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) should be the first stop. Standing just off the Doha Corniche’s popular waterfront promenade, the monolithic limestone structure overlooks the Dhow Harbour. It embodies Qatar’s future – capturing traditional inspiration within modern architecture as the foundation for Doha’s burgeoning cultural scene. The diverse collection includes paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery, representing the diversity of the Islamic world dating from the seventh through the twentieth centuries. Take time to wander through the exquisitely curated and displayed exhibitions presented over four floors. While you’re there break for lunch at IDAM – Alan Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East. It offers contemporary French-Mediterranean cuisine, and views that take in Doha’s rapidly expanding skyline.
Situated in Education City on the outskirts of Doha is the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art – the contemporary sister to MIA. It celebrates modern and contemporary art from across the Arab World. Or discover emerging artists by dropping by The Fire Station, an art gallery housed in former Civil Defence headquarters which displays contemporary art exhibitions through its Artist in Residence program. While you’re there, sample the chicken musakhan rolls or a falafel at the converted food truck take-away or dine-in CAFÉ #999.
The Katara Cultural Village is the place to catch the latest theatre, opera, film and festivals. Centred around a large amphitheatre overlooking one of Qatar’s most beautiful natural beaches, this multidimensional cultural precinct combines theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and restaurants.
To really appreciate and understand the Qatari culture and past, a visit to four restored historic houses, collectively referred to as the Msheireb Museums is a must. Located within the oldest part of city, they reveal Qatar’s social and cultural development, from the once enslaved pearl divers to pioneering Qatari petroleum industry workers.
A walk around the antique and spice markets of the Souq Waqif is best visited late in the afternoon or the early evening hours, when locals and visitors are out enjoying the local Qatari cuisine and ‘shisha time’ at one of the many cafés and restaurants within the souq. Also keep an eye out for the Falcon Souq and Arabian Horse Stables, both a short walk from the main souk. The falcons are deeply revered and respected by Qataris, and can be seen proudly displayed on the wrists of the young men.
There is certainly no shortage of world class hotels in Doha, from luxury beach resorts from the world’s most renowned hotel brands, to small luxury boutique hotels converted from existing historic buildings within the Souq Waqif. New to the city is the Mondrian Doha – a destination hotel with fantastical explorative interiors designed by famed Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, also designer of Hong Kong’s Alice’s Rabbit meets China’s Moon Goddess fairytale-inspired Mira Moon Hotel.In Marcel’s signature style, oversized lamps and giant columns topped with golden falcon eggs greet you in the lobby. There’s an extravagant spiral ‘staircase to nowhere’, a lounge featuring a forest of glossy white fibreglass trees with pillow-like canopies and an array of intricate timber lacework wall panels that dazzle and delight.
Within the hotel complex is New York’s iconic Magnolia Bakery serving up freshly baked artisan cupcakes, tortes and coffee. American celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s award-winning steak restaurant CUT is also on-site; and Morimoto – the first Middle Eastern restaurant by Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Inspired by ancient Japan and featuring extensive and detailed interior timber design work, Morimoto walls are also adorned with energetic and graceful artworks of Japanese painter, Hiroshi Senju.
For authentic Qatari hospitality and Middle Eastern cuisine, book dinner at the contemporary Arabian restaurant Walima, or watch the sun set from its outdoor terrace, complete with Arabian tents and oversized shishas. Finish with a nightcap at the sky bar Rise, overlooking the hotel’s fantasia pool and indoor garden; or simply enjoy the view of the city lights on the terrace.
Marcel Wanders’ manages to take visitors Mondrian Doha through a kaleidoscopic flow of colour and textures reflecting local Qatari patterns, stories and landscape: his dreamscape of Arabian design leaps from ornate stained glass, intricate mosaic tiling to sand patterned carpet. The fantasy illusion continues in the award-winning ESPA Spa, with separate spas for men and woman; a ‘garden’ of varying heat experiences, traditional Turkish Hamman (bath) and spa café. The only reason to leave the hotel is to pop next door (literally) to the conveniently located Lagoona Mall for some last minute shopping before you head back home or your onward journey.
Qatar flies twice-daily from Sydney, and daily from Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Canberra to over 160 destinations via Hamad International Airport in Doha. By combining a masterpiece of aeronautic engineering with refined on-board hospitality, Qatar Airways offers a flight experience like no other. Its recent awards from Skytrax 2018 include: Best Business Class for the fifth time, Best Business Class Seat, and Best First Class Airline Lounge: all honours that complement its 2017 World’s Best Airline award. Whether you’re seeking a superior experience for business or leisure travel, Qatar Airways can connect you to the world’s leading cities in superior comfort.
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In-flight:Flight-testing Qatar Airways’ Business Class