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Landing in Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), the hub for Qatar Airways, you overfly a lot of barren, dusty desert — but once you’re in the airport, things look far brighter. Even long before you reach Qatar Airway’s Al Mourjan Lounge, you’re shuttled through quite an architectural experience, all bronze steel, etched glass, air and light. Completed in 2014 and still spotless, the airport has a Skytrax 5-star rating. And according to those SkyTrax ratings, the home airline is the best in the world.
DOH gets routinely included in the lists of most luxurious airports in the world, and it’s easy to see why. It’s also one very long airport.
After you’ve been paraded though a quarter mile of this smooth expanse, you take an escalator to Level 3 and your own private oasis.
Al Mourjan isn’t even the top elite Qatar Airways lounge. That would be Al Safwa, for first-class passengers — fittingly it’s Arabic for “elite.” (Al Mourjan means “coral.”) But it still looks pretty great when you’re entering.
Two-and-a-half acres in all, Al Mourjan consists of many individual spaces, all comfortable and pleasant to look at.
Qatar Airways says that entry into the Al Mourjan lounge is reserved for its own, as well as Oneworld alliance, First Class and Business Class passengers, while Qatar Airways Economy Class passengers can purchase lounge access for 450 Qatari riyals, or about $120 US.
Looking from the restaurant end of the lounge’s main floor, you see the upstairs restaurant at the far end.
The lounge is very, very big, and its sheer enormity was magnified by the fact that our visit came off-peak. Though I doubt that it’s ever entirely full, it often felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.
The sense of privacy was enhanced by the small seating spaces within the cavernous main room, which are thoughtfully executed, with color schemes that accentuate the tranquil feel of the place. Each has its own selection of neatly arrayed magazines.
In addition to the main rooms, there are smaller rooms off to the sides with individual resting areas. One is designed with large “living rooms” specifically for families where another one has smaller areas for singles and couples to rest between flights. There are also a generous number of showers available for use by guests.
Since we had limited time before our connecting flight, we settled quickly on the ground-floor restaurant. Both a la carte and buffet dining is available.
The high-ceilinged restaurant was extraordinarily well sound-insulated, and very quiet; you’d barely know you were in an airport.
In addition to sandwiches, small plates of salads and appetizers were served in the lower-level restaurant.
In keeping with the theme of carving the massive lounge into separate spaces, the large restaurant was divided into several separate dining areas.
The Game Room is in another corner of the restaurant we were in, so we peeked in.
The chairs in this restaurant were quite high and not overly comfortable. We couldn’t wait in them for our sandwiches to arrive, not when we could run out to explore the rest of the lounge.
You get to the upper level restaurant via a swooping spiral staircase leading past the long chandelier and the fountain below. The fountain quietly shoots some modest jets every few seconds, contributing to the overall feeling of serenity.
From the upper level, we got a good idea of the length and sweep of both the lounge and the airport.
We didn’t sample many items at the upper floor buffet, which included a full range of Middle Eastern foods like hummus, baba ganoush and tabbouleh. We’d just had most of those inflight on Qatar’s superb mezze platter.
There was also a whole row of soups and pasta and rice dishes.
There’s always room for desserts as good as these.
Of all the lounge food, the desserts were best-in-show — fresh, creamy and not overly sweet. You could also choose from a table of other cakes.
The full bar on the upper was very peaceful during the quiet time when we visited.
We returned to find our warm sandwiches waiting for us. Nothing special there, and in hindsight, I would have preferred to eat upstairs. Time, alas, for us to catch our connecting flight, so we reluctantly trotted down the spiral staircase.
In the very center of the airport’s Duty Free Plaza, on your way to the gates, there is, of course, the giant teddy bear that everybody photographs. Much bear. Bought for a mere $6.8 million at auction, this ludicrously large work by Urs Fischer seemed to borrow directly from Jeff Koons.
The only real drawback of our visit to Al Mourjan was that we hadn’t engineered a longer layover in Doha. Next time I’m there — and I will make sure there is a next time — we won’t make that mistake!
Images by the author.
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