I had the opportunity to visit Qatar, courtesy of Gold Medal and Qatar Tourism. This was my first-ever long-haul trip and what an experience it was!
Here is everything you need to know if you’re thinking about visiting.
Flying with Qatar Airways
London Heathrow Departure Lounge
Before jetting off, I highly recommend booking the departure lounge for Qatar Airways. It is stunning. The layout and cultural embellishments immerse you with a middle eastern feel. If you are heading to Doha for leisure or business this is an amazing place to start, it really set the tone of the trip and you feel like a VIP.
The flight with Qatar Airways is faultless. The cabins are impeccably clean and the crew are attentive and understanding to passengers’ needs. There is an extensive range of entertainment on board too. I’d recommend the airline highly. If you have the option of booking a connecting flight via Doha I would suggest you consider, just to fly with Qatar Airways!
Hamad International Airport
The airport is huge and luxurious. At arrivals, the internal train/tram system that departs regularly takes you to baggage claim. The arrivals lounge is a great option for you to invest in on your holiday. It’s a pristine, calm lounge with plenty of seats as well as Arabic sweets and drinks to choose from. Luggage is conveniently collected for you while you kick back and relax. You exit through your own passport control barrier at the lounge so there was no queue to wait in too.
The best places to visit in Qatar
The Education City Doha is an inspiring place. The Mosque within Education City is a sight to behold, a great spot to learn and appreciate religion and it is a marvellous piece of architecture. The library is architecturally amazing also, with books as far as the eye can see and interactive experiences for tourists to take pictures and send postcards from. Beneath the library, there’s a museum of first editions, old maps and compasses. Great pieces of fascinating history right under your feet.
There are plenty of cultural and historic experiences to enjoy, The National Museum of Qatar is another amazing piece of architecture inspired by the desert rose. The country is rich in culture and heritage, and learning about the origins of Qatar really puts a new perspective on the destination. Instead of seeing it as a rich place popping up buildings to make a grand statement, you really learn to understand how they’ve put in the effort to preserve their heritage in each new build and integrate the past into the present, never forgetting their roots.
The Museum of Islamic art, again another great architectural build, filled with beautiful pieces of art, pottery, clothing, furniture, and battle gear. You can spend a lot of time in there taking all the history in. Walking outside of the building you can see the traditional boats (Dhows) coupled with water fountains and a tranquil atmosphere.
The traditional Arabian market is definitely a ‘must-do’ experience. A myriad of street lanes selling spices, scarfs, materials, food, jewellery and perfume. The atmosphere is buzzing and the smells that surrounded you are rich and woody. Incense and oud fill the streets. It is busy and a squeeze at times but that’s all part of the experience. I felt very safe in the streets, no stall vendor harassed me to come into the store they simply invited me in and if I declined, they thanked me for just having a look. There are plenty of stops for food and drink within the market too. I highly recommend Parisia, a beautifully decorated Persian restaurant in the heart of the Souq. You will be dazzled to say the least!
Discover the Desert and Inland Sea
My favourite highlight of the whole trip. After being picked up at the hotel you travel through the desert sand dunes in a 4×4 to see the in-land sea and sunset, it’s something I’ll never forget. Highly recommended. I felt extremely safe, the drivers were experienced and professional but fun and answered any questions I had. Included in this tour is a desert camp dinner. It felt very luxurious with a large buffet, open campfires and ornate carpets to sit on or an air-conditioned dining area if you prefer. It really brings your thrilling experience to a relaxing close.
Where to stay in Qatar
Intercontinental Doha Beach & Spa – 5*
The hotel looks like a desert castle from the outside and a palace from within. With a security scanner on the door, you feel very safe as a guest. Check-in is quick and easy and there are several lifts to get you to your room. The hotel has a luxurious feel but is not overbearing, still a relaxed atmosphere and very friendly staff. There is a number of international guests staying here so it’s a great option for UK tourists. The rooms are spacious and well put together with ample storage including everything you could need. The view was delightful from my room, I would have happily sat all night watching it!
La Mar restaurant at the hotel is stunning. With night-time city views, a very Instagram-able posing spot and delicious food, it’s the perfect place to go for a meal and it’s just outside the hotel.
The private beach is quiet and intimate with unlimited free towels and a huge pool just 5 steps behind you.
The Hilton Salwa Beach Resort and Villas. – 5*
An hour’s drive from Salwa, the Hilston Salwa Beach Resort is a huge complex with lots of rooms and several villas to stay in. From traditional Arabian Villas to Beach Front Private Pool villas there is something for everyone.
Desert Falls Water and Adventure Park within the complex are huge, exciting and with loads to do. Being one of the largest theme parks in the Middle East, you will never be bored and it’s a great option for families.
The Arabesque style rooms are stunning with beautiful views and a furnished balcony. Not to mention tickets to Desert Falls Theme Park are included! I’d recommend this for families or as a multi-stay after visiting the city. Not as many international guests stay here but everyone is very polite and helpful. Food is delicious, with plenty of buffet options and children’s choices.
The Waldorf Astoria Lusail – 5*
This hotel is the height of opulence. For someone that enjoys the finer things in life, this is a star option. It is family-friendly and great for adults too, with plenty of things to do with a private beach and splash park included. Just outside the hotel is Lusail City, home to the World Cup final stadium and one of the biggest shopping malls I’ve ever seen!
Magic in the Middle East
Qatar is a stunning destination built on the foundations of culture and heritage. Their history has been integrated into the city and I admire that highly. It does not feel commercial. It is suitable for all types of travellers, those who love to learn, relax, explore and discover. I feel like I could travel here alone and be safe, there is a lot of respect shown and you never felt like a tourist or out of place. An overall amazing first experience in the Middle East, and I cannot wait to return with my family and friends.
If you would like to visit Qatar and immerse yourself in any of these experiences, please contact your local Kyle Travel branch and either myself or a member of our expert team can help you plan the perfect trip.