Qatar Airways and Qsuite
It was the first time that I flew with Qatar Airways and to be honest, I am very impressed. In fact, their business class cabins are literally world-class. Qatar Airways was the winner of numerous Airline Awards and TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awards for their innovative business class design and services. Once I hopped on the plane, I was greeted by the crew and to my surprise, I have the whole cabin all to myself! The airlines introduced the Qsuite, the first-ever cabin that offers opposite facing seats, turning four seats in the center a private space; each seat has a door that enhances privacy – with the large flat-screen TV and state-of-the-art entertainment system, ambient mood lighting, fully flat beds, ERIC’s and Castello Monte Vibiano amenity pack and duvet blanket, my flight to Europe via Doha was truly a “magic carpet” experience. I can’t wait to fly with Qatar Airways again!
Doha may not be a top travel destination to many yet it could be a great option when you are connecting from Asia to Europe. Between my connecting flights, I decided to spend some time in Doha, but I only had about 6 hours in the morning. If you have more time, I recommend seven “must-sees” in Doha that includes:
- Soud Waqif
- Doha Corniche
- The Museum of Islamic Art
- The Falcon Souq
- The Pearl Qatar
- Katara Cultural Village
- National Museum of Qatar
There are more places to go and things to do based on my research, like the Zubarah Fort, Aspire Tower, Villaggio Mall, Barzan Towers, Sand Dune Adventure, and the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. Four houses in Msheireb Downtown Doha have been transformed into Msheireb Museums, unique galleries that tell the story of Qatar’s history. There are 50,000 rare and valuable printed items stored in the heritage library at the Qatar National Library. The city has 540 km of cycle routes waiting to open in the country by the end of 2022, Since I had only 6 hours, I focused my route only at the waterfront.
My flight landed at midnight, and the airport was still very busy – it took quite some time (as usual) to get through the customs. I was told by the Uber driver that the airport gets busy during night time, probably because lots of connecting flights landed during that period.
I checked in to my hotel at the waterfront and had a good night’s sleep before catching my flight the next day. The next morning, I left the hotel and I had a walk out in the city. Doha’s downtown and waterfront are very modern, yet I didn’t see a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Most parts of the city are still under construction, and many workers come from India, the UAE and other countries in the Middle East. I visited in December and the weather was very agreeable, the city was a bit chilly in the morning and there was obviously not much rain in the Middle East, not a single cloud in the sky and the sun got violent at noon.
In general, I feel safe walking around in Doha and it’s easy to get an Uber. I used uber and credit card and my entire stay in Doha was cash-free. The Doha Metro, the city’s subway system recently becomes operational in May 2019, it has 4 lines and currently, 13 stations are in service. It won the top spot in the excellent product design category at Innotrans, the world’s biggest train festival. I don’t have a chance to use it yet, but I would probably consider trying it the next time I visit Doha.
My first stop was the National Museum of Qatar. The museum building, shaped like a “desert rose”, was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, and took 10 years to build. Jean’s previous work includes the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and NMoQ quickly becomes a new hit in his work portfolio. He took inspiration from “desert rose” – it is not exactly a flower, it is a colloquial name given to rose-like formations of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains. The museum was designed based on its unique shape, and it looks like a stack of rose petals on the ground from above. The building consists of 11 exhibition halls and it takes the audience through the journey the nation’s history, from the establishment of Qatar to the people’s lives and culture.
The exhibits include video, arts, and music; and the “Pearl Carpet of Baroda” is definitely a highlight. This is a Syrian and Iraqi national treasure and the most incredible carpet ever created by human hand, embedded with over 1.5 million seed pearls, and diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphire.
Museum of Islamic Art
I stopped by the Museum of Islamic Art next and I had my morning coffee at the cafe. The spacious room has a great view of DECC across the water. It was Doha’s financial district that defines the city’s skyline.
The museum has quite a collection and access is free. It houses a respectable collection of arts in different aspects regionwide, including historical exhibits from Iran, Egypt, India, Turkey – and most interested me – to Iraq and Syria. The showroom gave me a good introductory preview of art and history in these countries and I would love to visit there again.
The museum has a great temporary exhibition about the heritage in Syria, which is now pretty much destroyed, or destructed due to war. Since 2011, Syria has been experiencing one of the worst human and cultural tragedies in its history. Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives, their families, and their friends. Innumerable inhabitants have fled abroad, others have had to move their homes within the country, a special concern is the destruction of cultural heritage sites which has resulted in the loss of some of Syria’s most important monuments. The reasons for their destruction are complex’ some sites – like Aleppo – have become battlefields and were demolished as a direct result of armed conflicts, others – like Palmyra – were intentionally targeted, and others still – like Apamea – were destroyed by systematic looting. Their loss affects everyone as these monuments are important testimonies to the development of human civilization. The exhibit showcased Satellite images that reveal an impressive recreation of Aleppo, a city in Syria, with its majestic citadel in the center; also pictures of Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra and the Temple of ‘Ain Dara… It was such a shame that these valuable monuments were destroyed… hopefully, some of the remains could be safeguarded and the conflicts would be resolved very soon.
Outside, I walked around the terrace and promenade, also explored the Soud Waqif before heading back to the airport and … until next time. Doha. 🙂