The A388 800 plane I took to Qatar carries an amazing 517 people. In economy I had plenty of room so that the six-hour journey literally flew by. With only a twenty-minute shuttle to The Four Seasons Hotel I was ensconced in my luxury room quicker than a drive to the West Country.
And when I say luxury I mean it. The hotel has five pools, Rolex watches for sale in the foyer, its own Mont Blanc shop, what more could you want? I was there just before Christmas and preparations were well under way for the 800 guests they annually have for a festive brunch on 25th. Santa arrives on a camel (what else) and reindeer on kayaks paddle along the edge of the sea, yes really. This is a land where nothing is impossible (the reindeer are staff dressed in case you were wondering).
My first meal was supper on the water’s edge. Lamb chops and char-grilled vegetables followed by a selection of desserts including baked pineapple, a sublime cheesecake and fruit. Then back to my vast room with luxe bathroom and a terrific view of the bay. A perfectly placed armchair with footstool helped me relax for the remainder of the evening. The bed proved so successful I was asleep in seconds.
Breakfast didn’t disappoint. Like all the best international hotels they saw fit to include international cuisine first thing. Dim sum and eggs Benedict set me up for the day.
After breakfast it was time to get out of town in a 4X4 Toyota Land Cruisers to do a spot of dune bashing. This if you have never done it is brilliant fun. Skilled drivers take you into the middle of the desert and ride up and down the dunes. Sounds simple but it is harder than it looks. Our driver was taught by his father over many years from boy to man, a kind of modern apprenticeship. It would be easy to get very lost in the desert, but the drivers all have walkie-talkies to keep in touch with each other. A word of warning if you scream on roller coasters you will definitely screen on the dunes. Lunch was a BBQ beside the sea at Qatar International Adventures, the dune busting organisers. If a 4 X 4 sounds too strenuous then you can always take a gentle ride on a camel.
Doha is a new city in world terms but is making up for lost time. Positioning itself as the Gulf’s cultural hub it is investing in art and the arts in a big way not to mention football in the coming years. Everything here is done to an extremely high standard so I’m sure they will reach their goal.
The Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Doha was the next stop for dinner. A Lebanese feast of many courses that just kept on coming. Like all Kempinski hotels this was spectacular in its size and proportion. The lobby was high enough to fit a small church in. The presidential suite has a hot tub on its own roof garden (it really has, I looked). You get the picture.
As I check out of the Four Seasons I ask about the beds, which are truly wonderful, not too hard not too soft just Goldilocks right. Apparently they took two years to develop and if you have a particular request they can alter them to suit your needs. True luxury.
Doha has pretty much everything you’d need in terms of eating and sleeping. There is an island known as The Pear, shaped like a clamshell of course, housing über plush apartments and all the high-end brands you’d expect. Yachts form orderly queues at the harbour as the gentle sun beats down. December is a great time to visit this part of the world as it was just like a good summers day at home.
After a stroll around the gigantic (everything is large here) QM gallery where they have a moving feast of art I went to the jewel in Qatar’s crown, The Museum of Islamic Art. The building designed by I. M. Pei is itself a work of art. From certain angles it resembles the face of a lady wearing an abaya with slits for the eyes, a brilliant design that just keeps on giving when you enter. Its futuristic interior is a splendid foil to the ancient artifacts on display.
On the ground floor past the gift shop there’s an outside terrace. From here you can see ‘down town’ Doha through three large (of course) arches, one of the best views in town. This is a must do in Qatar, the exhibits are displayed with flair, the grounds beautiful and the building offers a discovery at every turn. Guides or headsets are on hand to answer any questions
Lunch took me to Opal, Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant outpost. Situated in the St. Regis hotel it offers casual dining with high quality ingredients. As you’d expect from Gordon the food was exemplary. My battered squid with chilli was crisp and crunchy with a slight kick. The lamb burger was perfect and the wine (as is always the case with a Ramsay gaff) perfect.
Next stop was checking in at the Melia, another 5* hotel. After all the luxury I’d been exposed to it was time to use their spa. A half hour later after a firm but satisfying back and neck work over I felt back to normal. My room here was another large space with its own dressing area and a super duper bathroom.
There are several restaurants in the hotel but it was the turn of tapas tonight at the Aceite, their signature Spanish restaurant. Great and enthusiastic service in conjunction with authentic food made for a robust evening with my fellow diners. And on the way home a late cocktail at the world’s largest (there they go again) Nobu restaurant.
The restaurant sits out in the water attached by an isthmus of land. It has a spectacular entrance hall and staircase with several levels of dining and drinking. On the top is a roof terrace where you can enjoy one of their outstanding cocktails in an evening breeze. What a way to end a few days in the cultural capital of the Middle East. They are still working on it and it will only get better but for my money it’s well on track and fit for purpose already.
Barrhead Travel is offering a five-night stay in Qatar from £1197 per person (Based on two sharing). Offer includes three nights on a bed & breakfast basis at The Four Seasons Doha, two nights on a room only basis at The Melia Doha and flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways. To book please call: 0141 222 2223 or visit www.barrheadtravel.co.uk
For more information on Qatar please visit: www.qatartourism.gov.qa
Qatar Airways flies from London Heathrow to Doha 42 times a week, with prices starting from GBP 637 return (based on availability). For more information on Qatar Airways please visit: www.qatarairways.com
Tours can be provided through Travel Designer Qatar, please visit: www.traveldesigner.qa
The Melia Doha offers a Relaxing Massage at the Spa prices start from GBP 90 per person.