The 12-hour flight from Cape Town to Doha with Qatar Airways flight QR133 flew via Johannesburg, where they requested us to wait on the plane for an hour and a half, before taking off again. I watched a movie, chatted to the passenger beside me and read a bit then managed to get some sleep during the night.
Closer to Doha I experienced the best part of the flight. The sun was radiating below the horizon, and the curvature of the earth was still in darkness. The oil rigs and ships in the ocean below all started coming into view as we began our decent closer to Doha, just after sunrise.
Our flight landed at Hamad International Airport at 06:20 am. The airport juts out into the Persian Gulf on top of some manmade reclaimed land. It opened its doors to the public on the 30 April 2014, at the time of me being there, it was only six months old.
I followed the other passengers off the plane so that I’d find my way through the airport to customs control without getting lost. We all walked at a brisk pace down the lounge cream passage, around a few bends then straight for a while until we reached a glass partition that divides the arrivals area from the Duty-Free Shops below. We took the escalator down a level and arrived at the Customs Control area where we waited for our turn.
I felt grateful to be travelling lightly with my comfy and compact backpack. This backpack ends up attaching to my main pack with a zip so that I’ll end up having to carry only one bag while travelling instead of two and another plus is that my hands will be free. My main backpack was already on its way to India.
Customs control in Qatar was very advanced with their eye recognition machine that takes a picture of you while you’re standing there. They asked a few questions about my stay in Doha then checked my visa that the hotel had arranged for me, and they also checked my credit card that I’d used to pay for my hotel accommodation.
I entered the airport and found my name with ease on one of the signboards with a friendly gentleman. He welcomed me to Qatar, and we chatted along the way about the Indian and South African cricket teams. He was from Bengaluru and welcomed me to visit his homeland when he heard we were on our way to India the next day.
My taxi drive from the airport to the hotel was an eye opener for me regarding the extent of all the building that was going on. The one side of the highway was fenced off with steel to hide all the building going on behind it. On the other end of the road, we passed some newly completed bridges, paved walkways and flower beds.
The taxi ride from the airport to the Crowne Plaza Hotel cost me 65 Qatar Riyals. The exchange rate at the time was 1 QAR = 3.05 ZAR (Qatar Riyal – South African Rand). My taxi ride cost me R198.25.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel in The Business Park is a grand hotel. I booked in and upgraded my room to the early bird package as it was 7:30 in the morning and check in is at 10 am.
I went straight to the restaurant to enjoy a cappuccino coffee and a fresh, crispy croissant while I let Ian and our family at home know that I’d arrived safely at the hotel. I wished I’d taken a picture of their smoking room which was a large, white marquee tent, but I was a bit cautious and shy to flash my camera around. You have to respect the morals of the land. This room was situated just off their main bar and restaurant. In the centre of the room hung a large crystal candelabra. Lots of thick white material was draped from the middle outward towards the sides of the tent then clustered together with a gold cord to keep it together in each corner. Two large air conditioning units were keeping the room cool. The tables were round, covered with a white tablecloth. There was a small vase with a single flower in it. The rich in reds and blue Persian carpet underneath my feet gave me a luxurious sensation with every step I took. A flat screen television was playing the latest sporting event, but no one was paying much attention to it as they sat around chatting with their friends. The service was excellent, and I enjoyed the time to myself while watching those around me starting their day.
I was awaiting Ian’s arrival, so I took the time to freshened up with a shower and an hour sleep. When I opened up my eyes, Ian was there, with me, my soul was content.
Ian wanted to show me around Qatar as we still had a few hours before flying out to India. We took a taxi drive past the Dhow Harbour and along Al Corniche Street with its palm lined edge and the refreshingly blue Persian Gulf (also known as the Arabian Gulf) to our right.
There were a few Dhow boats out in the bay. The lawns were lush, and the bushes were all well pruned back in their various shapes. A few statues and artefacts adorn the Cornish walk along the seaside.
The buildings started to rise higher into the sky as we reached closer to the city. Each and every one of them different with their intricacy in architectural designs that catches one’s eye wherever you looked. The building light up at night in various bright LED colours. The cylinder one on the right in the picture below lights up bright orange while the meshed building to the left of it lights up bright blue on all the crisscrosses. It must look quite spectacular at night.
Below is the route we’d taken to get to The City Centre Shopping Mall. Our taxi ride cost us 45QAR = 137.25ZAR.
The buildings below are opposite the mall’s entrance.
The sound of water flowing down a man-made river-lit welcomed us into City Centre Shopping Mall as we walked up its steps. The spherical glass ceiling that was above us caught my eye and the ice skating rink situated in the centre of the mall, a few floors below.
Glitz and glam are how I’d describe the various artefacts and products that we saw in most of the shops around.
There was such a wide variety of children’s riding and driving toys. A child would have a hard time having to decide what toy they’d like to buy here.
Fortunately, for our bank account, I had no desire to purchase anything as it would mean having less money to be able to spend in India and more luggage to take back home at the end.
We needed to quench our thirst and to have something small to eat so we stopped for a bit at the Burger King with its kid’s play area alongside it.
The afternoon traffic started congesting the roads, and our taxi driver took his own, preferred route back towards our hotel’s area. Our taxi fare from City Centre to Lulu Centre cost us 45QAR.
Lulu Centre reminded me of the Checkers store we find in South Africa. I was intrigued to see the regular name brands we’d find at home, but some of the individual products packaging were vastly different to what we’re used to. We wandered around the upper level where we browsed through various stalls along the passage that were selling a variety of toys, cheap watches and there we also found the Swiss Arabic perfumes that I’ve always loved. A girl can’t resist smelling good, so I bought a little bottle to take with me on my travels.
I browsed around the jewellery store downstairs just before heading out of the mall only for my eyes to pick up on a cute little watch. I enquired and found out that it consisted of an 18 carat gold face and a black leather strap. It cost 1200QAR.
We stopped off at our hotel then took a taxi (5QAR) to The Rotana Oryx Hotel where we enjoyed a refreshing alcoholic drink in The Cellar bar and shared a bowl of calamari strips.
The opulence of their lifestyles shows through in all the places we’d seen. People living in Qatar don’t pay for their water or electricity and petrol there is super cheap. It shows as everything becomes abundantly lit up during the night and during the day you’ll see the latest and biggest SUV to the smallest and fastest sports car whizzing around.
The Oryx Hotel in Doha as shown in the picture above and the two below.
We drove past the eye building that’s in the picture below which becomes lit up with various colours during the night. I tried to capture it, but somehow I ended up with the pic below. Qatar is also big on going green, energy wise. They have another ‘eye building’ that is used to educate their citizens about different green energy and water capturing possibilities.
The Crowne Plaza Hotel.
We were at the airport around midnight to catch our flight to India.
The roof of the airport caught my eye with its different design and the gentle flow it has to it. It almost felt as if there should be a roller coaster whizzing around somewhere.
Once the technicalities of checking in and security checks were over, we made our way downstairs where we found some top quality shops. There are plenty of places to sit and relax while you wait for your flight out. The kiddies have an area where they can play and run around.
The decor, depicting the humdrum of rest while awaiting your flights out of Qatar.
Once again, there are long walks you need to take to make your way to the departure gates. In a few places, you’re able to jump onto the moving escalator mats to speed up the process. The different passages leading this way and that way can be quite daunting to the new traveller. There are enough workers at the airport who can show you in the right direction if you do get lost. My tip for you would be to make sure that you give yourself enough time to find your destination within the airport to make it to your gate on time.
For your Qatar Duty-Free shopping experience you will find the following shops:
- AU – Gold and jewellery boutique
- Bally – Luxury Swiss leather, shoes, bags, belts, wallets and luggage collection
- Boulevard – Shoes, handbags, wallets, sunglasses, scarves, watches, pens and jewellery
- Bvlgari – Global luxury jewels watches, accessories and fragrances
- Burberry – Men’s and women’s clothing, handbags, wallets, scarves and accessories
- Chanel – Luxury watches
- Chocology – Handmade chocolates, gift hampers, chocolate drinks and dipping
- Cedar Room – Premium cigars, liquor and smoking accessories
- Esquire – Men’s designer suits, belts, luggage, sunglasses, watches, wallets, skincare gadgets
- Eye-Q – Branded sunglasses
- QDF Express – Perfumes, cosmetics, skincare, electronics, tobacco, liquor, confectionery, nuts and dates
- GMT – Branded Men and women’s luxury watches. A range of timepieces and unique jewellery
- Harrods – Signature Harrods gifts and great foods
- Hermes – Handcrafted designer handbags, wallets, jewellery, scarves and sunglasses
- Junction – Men and women’s designer clothing, jeans, sunglasses, shoes, belts, purses and accessories
- Confectionery, Liquor and Tobacco – Tobacco, cigars, wines, malts, whisky’s, nuts, dates and chocolates
- Michael Kors – Handbags, wallets and clutches
- Pharmacy – Prescriptions, health care and pain relief products.
- Perfumes, Cosmetics and Skincare – Wide range of perfumes, cosmetics and skincare
- Pulse – Mobile phones, accessories, cameras, gadgets and laptops
- Marmalade Market – Gourmet food gifts, Arabic specialities, tea and coffee, biscuits and chocolate, oils and honey
- Rolex – A range of over 300 luxury timepieces for men and women
- Swarovski – Unique crystal jewellery, watches and gifts
- TAG Heuer – Luxury watches, chronographs, accessories and eyewear
- The Bumble Tree – Toys, gifts and action figures. Teenage arts and crafts, gadgets and dolls
- Tiffany & Co – World’s legendary jewellery diamond and coloured gemstone jewellery and accessories
- Virgin Megastore – Global leader in retail entertainment, electronic, music, video, book and gadgets
- WHSmith – Newspapers, magazines, books, sandwiches, snacks, drinks and travel accessories
- WHSmith Bookshop – Huge selection of books across a wide variety of genres
If you need something to eat at the airport, you will find these restaurants to choose from:
- Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar and Restaurant
- Jamocha Café – Coffee shop
- Marché International Restaurant
The food court offers the following food choices:
- Burger King – Fast food restaurant
- Camden food co – Salads, crudities pots, sandwiches and wraps
- Azka – Arabic food
- Yum Cha – Asian food
- Negroni – Pizza and pasta
- Soho Coffee Co – Fresh food and organic. Fair-trade coffee
- Red Mango – Frozen yoghurt and smoothies
The Crowne Plaza, Doha – The Business Park – Tel: +974 44087777. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We were back in Qatar a few weeks later where we enjoyed a vibrant night out at the Souq Waqif and its interesting shops.
I’ll revisit Qatar at the end of our India trip as it was our last pit stop before returning home.