Shimmering gloriously in the golden glow of evening light, the waters of Doha bay with their bobbing wooden dhow boats provided a splendidly serene welcome to the Qatar Tourism Authority’s 32-strong, mega fam trip to the Middle East for two days of intense sight-seeing.
Driving the length of the Corniche for the first time – Doha’s seven-kilometre long, palm tree-lined, waterfront promenade – the assorted travel specialist’s were confronted with an impressive cityscape of fearless modernity. Upon first glimpsing this daring desert city, one cannot be anything but taken aback by the momentum of progress as Doha’s skyline sparkles impressively with the skyscrapers of the central business district and a glut of iconic buildings that jostle with one another for the spotlight.
Qatar’s attitude to investment has facilitated an unleashing of architectural creativity that is truly remarkable and one that is not always manifested in the ‘big is best’ ethos; the sight of French architect Jean Nouvel’s National Museum of Qatar nestled on the bay-side – an elegant low-rise building comprised of a series of interlocking discs that together, resemble a desert rose – is a thing of refined beauty.
The first full day of the fam itinerary involved a morning drive out to the north-west coast of Qatar to the site of Al-Zubarah Fort – a UNESCO World Heritage site. Originally built in 1938 and since restored as a museum, the limestone walls and towers of this isolated edifice stand imperiously as one looks out to the ocean. The erstwhile walled coastal town, which the fort previously adjoined, is now a 60-hectare archaeological site with a visitor centre.
Museum of Islamic Art
Rejuvenated and refreshed from a sumptuous buffet lunch of Middle-Eastern dips and breads followed by aromatic cardamom-infused coffee, at the Four Seasons Doha, the group headed back to Doha bay to visit the splendid Museum of Islamic Art which sits on an artificial island bathed in golden light like an elegant queen in repose. In a city of cutthroat architectural competition, this IM Pei-designed building manages to standout and demands to be photographed from all angles and in all lights. The desert sun plays on the assorted pile of limestone blocks that make up this modern incarnation of traditional Islamic architecture. A feature much remarked upon were the two oculi in the top section of the building, which appear to represent a woman’s eyes in a burka surveying the city.
Inside the museum is just as captivating – both in terms of its design and its artefacts and artworks, displayed across five floors of galleries. The museum visit sparked much effusive chatter amongst the party of travel specialists and, asked about his impressions of Doha, Abdurrahman Bobat of Serendipity Tailormade/Luxury Halal Travel was impressed:
“Doha is an ideal stopover destination in the Middle East and a good alternative to the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For those into culture and the arts, Doha has much to offer with its various museums, galleries, modern architecture and souks. The Museum of Islamic Art in particular has an incredible collection of Islamic era artefacts ranging from the 7th Century – one of the more memorable experiences of my visit to Doha. Although we were only there for a short time, one could easily spend an afternoon there and marvel at the many collections on display.”
Dhow to end the day…
Pleasantly wearied, the evening’s culinary arrangements saw travel specialists board a traditional dhow boat for a banquet cruise around the bay, enjoying a different perspective of the city.
That Qatar possesses abundant natural energy resources is well known, but QTA made sure that some if its other assets were brought to the fore.
During their time in Qatar, this correspondent stayed at the InterContinental Doha, a five-star hotel with a private beach access. This 80-room property has rooms with sea views and amenities such as two large swimming pools, two whirlpools, spa facilities, sauna, gym, beach bar with chair and towel service as well as a restaurant.
The inaugural QTA mega fam trip to Qatar took place May 17 – 20 2017, taking out the largest group of UK & Irish agents, to date. 31 participants took part from tour operators including but not limited to; Trailfinders, Kuoni, Travel Counsellors, Travelbag and Travel2.
The trip departed from four locations around the UK (London Heathrow, Edinburgh, Birmingham & Manchester) and included participants from Dublin, and flew directly to Doha, Qatar with Qatar Airways. The accommodation for the trip was hosted by the Intercontinental Hotel Group in their following hotels: The Intercontinental The Beach, The Intercontinental The City and The Crowne Plaza.
Attendees visited a variety of luxury hotels throughout their stay including the Shangri-La, Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton Doha.
Read about the rest of the trip on Travel Daily UK tomorrow.