A series of posts on my holiday to Doha, Jakarta and Bali which I visited in autumn 2019 and haven’t documented previously. I realise that we can’t travel right now but are all itching to leave our homes and start exploring again be it near or far, so for the time being why not sit back in your armchairs and join me on this adventure and dream of days to come.
We took the train to Manchester Airport for our onward flight to Doha with Qatar Airways. After making the effort to check in on-line we wondered why we had bothered as the queue for the bag drop was extremely long yet the one for passengers who hadn’t checked in advance, there was no waiting time at all! It seemed the wrong way round to me as surely using bag drop is supposed to speed up the process.
Terminal Two appeared unusually quiet and after completing formalities we were soon enjoying a refreshing pot of tea in the Spinning Jenny cafe before proceeding to our gate at 8.10 p.m. for our overnight flight to Doha, taking 6 hours 55 minutes.
Our selected seats on the Dreamliner 787-8 aircraft were in a good position in the front cabin of economy and soon after boarding was completed we were able to spread out as there was no-one sitting next to us. Despite having boarded punctually we were 18 minutes behind schedule by the time we pushed back from the gate at 8.28 p.m. I hoped that the dinner service would be prompt to enable us to get a few hours sleep on this relatively short flight. As with my previous experiences of travelling on this type of Qatar Airways aircraft, the seat back screens no longer function correctly, resulting in passengers having to jab at the screens to make them scroll and hoping whilst doing so that people in the seat in front are not disturbed.
Few of the new films on offer seemed particularly interesting but whilst waiting for my evening meal I passed the time by watching Disney’s Lion King. The trolley service commenced 90 minutes into the flight and from the printed menu we both selected braised beef with mushrooms which tasted much better than my photo suggests. Accompanying this was a rice salad, a focaccia roll and a delicious chocolate ganache dessert with a salted caramel sauce. We accompanied our meal with glasses of wine and as the trays were being collected had a cup of tea and a Godiva chocolate each. I usually prefer coffee after dinner but as I wanted to sleep I thought tea was probably a more sensible option.
We did then manage a few hours sleep, not waking until the cabin lights came on for the breakfast service. I wasn’t really hungry but managed to eat my egg and tomato lattice pastry served with orange juice and coffee. I would never buy one of these ‘giant sausage roll’ type snacks but it was passable. Our flight had been very smooth with courteous service from an all male cabin crew in our section. Disembarking at Hamad International Airport was by shuttle bus to the terminal building as there were no available airbridges.
Unlike our previous stopover in Doha, on this occasion the immigration area was deserted and we were issued with our free visas within minutes. Clearly an advantage of an early morning arrival rather than one late in the evening. Our luggage magically appeared on the baggage carousel just as we approached and once we were reunited with it, our next task was to obtain some Qatari Riyal from an ATM to cover public transport and anywhere else where cards might not be accepted. Leaving the Arrivals Hall we followed directions to the bus station for the No. 747 service to Souq Waqif which we’d researched on-line and believed that it ran at 20 minute intervals. Although the cost of this journey is only QR 3.5, this fare is only available to holders of bus metro cards which are priced at QR 30 and are non-refundable. The cheapest option for us was to buy a QR 10 ticket (£2.14) each, valid for any two journeys within a 24 hour period. I suggest purchasing tickets from either the bus driver or from a ticket vendor in the bus station as the ticket machines do not give change and the ATM had dispensed only QR 100 (£21.40) and QR 50 (£10.70) notes. Thankfully the bus arrived within a few minutes and there was ample room for our large suitcases in the middle section. The journey to the Souq took about 20 minutes and it was very quiet with only one other passenger on board for part of the way. On arrival into Souq Waqif bus station we made use of Google maps to locate our hotel, the Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel, a 15 minute walk from there.
It was still only 9.00 a.m. when we arrived at the hotel, but subject to availability, guests can check-in whenever they wish as part of the Qatar Airways Stopover Programme. we were politely informed that our room would be ready in around 45 minutes. Whilst waiting, we settled down in some comfortable armchairs sipping glasses of freshly squeezed watermelon juice and took a first look at our iPads since leaving Manchester.
Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel actually comprises 9 small luxury hotels located around the Souq. Each hotel has a slightly different theme and charm of its own but I don’t think it matters which one you are allocated as they are all beautiful. Guests booking through the Qatar Airways programme are unable to select a specific Souq Waqif hotel and each of the ones we have been allocated has been lovely. On our previous visit we stayed in the Musheireb Boutique Hotel near the Camel Souq and this time we were allocated a deluxe room in the Al Mirqab Boutique Hotel, coincidentally the one we’d arrived at to check-in. Guests are requested to check in at any of the hotels and will then be transported through the Souq by one of the hotel’s electric club cars.
Our opulent room on the second floor had marble floors and was furnished in Arabian style. From our windows, we had views across the Corniche to the skyscrapers of West Bay. After unpacking and taking a refreshing shower we set off for a leisurely stroll around the Souq (standing market). The Souq doesn’t really come to life until early evening but it was still fun exploring the narrow, winding passageways taking in the heady aromas of the spices and admiring the rugs and textiles.
As we’d ventured out at around noon it was extremely hot with no shade and the sudden change of temperature from home was making us wilt rapidly. Nevertheless, we continued, crossing over to the Corniche (promenade) via an underpass. Along there, we explored the Dhow Harbour with its many traditional wooden boats and gazed across the calm, azure blue sea to the gleaming skyscrapers at West Bay.
After not much more than four hours sleep on the plane we started to feel a little weary so we popped into one of the other Souq Waqif hotels for some complimentary Arabic coffee and dates. We don’t usually enjoy coffee without milk but this variety had a light, aromatic flavour containing cinnamon and ginger and was actually delicious black.
Duly rested, we returned to our own hotel for a short rest and then made use of the hotel’s spa facilities by relaxing in the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. It was so nice to have the entire suite to ourselves and we returned to our room feeling relaxed and ready to eat.
We ordered the hotel’s complimentary club car to take us to the other side of the Souq and dined on the terrace of an Iraqi restaurant called Aloosh. Our friendly waiter Hassan, informed us that he was from Morocco and we feasted on some lamb kebabs and a chicken rice dish accompanied with large slices of delicious flat bread. The food tasted delicious and the portions were so huge that we could have easily shared one dish. Cost of two mains and water QR 76 (£16.27).
To walk off our large meal we returned to the Corniche for a leisurely stroll. The illuminated skyline of West Bay appeared very hazy in the distance but with the temperature having dropped, it was a pleasant time for an evening stroll. Tiredness then got the better of us so we returned to our hotel for an early night looking forward to a full day of sightseeing in Doha the next day.
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