Note that this hot chocolate was enjoyed pre COVID…it has just taken me a little while to share it here. I thought we all needed a bit of armchair travel right now, so I’m posting from older experiences I never got around to sharing at the time.

I can’t say that I knew much, or had even noticed much about Qatar before I was booked on Qatar Airlines. Like many places one has never visited or had any connection with before, you don’t notice it, but then the moment it enters your life in some way, all of a sudden it then starts to form part of your radar. And once it is on your radar you see it everywhere, as if it had always been all around you but you just didn’t have the capability to see it yet. I like this idea that we have this sort of superpower where we have the potential to see everything but that ability only manifests itself in small increments at a time depending on what we are ready to see, or allow ourselves to see. 

So I guess I am now ready to see Qatar and now so desperately want to see more. I wouldn’t say that six hours at Qatar airport is exactly experiencing Qatar. Unfortunately it seems that the global community has decided that all airports need to look pretty much the same so it isn’t immediately obvious that I am indeed in Qatar. I zig zagged past all of the usual duty free stores. Unlike most airports I have been to where officials are trying to stop people from smoking, here cigarette boxes are celebrated and placed front and centre in prominent places throughout the airport. There is a large store that sells only gold, the really shiny sparkly kind. The usual suspects are all here, but then they are framed with the traditional intricate designs of this area of the world, little hints of the souks and a history that the advertisements for Doha on the big screen in the terminal only briefly mention before showing images of clean shiny buildings. The world has enough large clean shiny buildings…

The women are dressed head to toe in black hijab (locally referred to as a bo’shiya) and men dressed in wonderfully smart looking white thawbs, many spraying themselves generously with all sorts of different strong smelling perfumes in the duty free areas. The airport is a sort of modern art gallery and throughout there are some gigantic pieces that are worth a stop and a picture. There is a large bear with a lamp type hat by artist Urs Fishcher and a fantastic playground for kids designed by Tom Otterness. A beautiful gold piece hangs in one part of the terminal designed by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and a sad looking pinnochio bear by artist Kaws overlooks the main passage way. Even the ceilings themselves look like a piece of art.

I stopped at the most traditional looking café to try a hot chocolate. Qataf Café has the ambiance of a majilis (an Arabic term meaning “a place of sitting”) but also has a modern copper stainless steel counter handmade in Ireland, just a tad further away.  Qataf is the national flower of Qatar although I didn’t see it anywhere in the café. I ordered one hot chocolate and two small baklavas that were selected from a row of about 10 plates piled high with different variations and covered with clear glass domes. The café feels either like I expect historic downtown Doha looks like, or like the café thinks tourists think historic downtown Doha looks like. Either way, I was pretty happy with myself. The hot chocolate was served in a huge mug. The first half of it was very sweet, but quite nice, the second half was just too much. 

I sat for over an hour, watching everyone go by. There was a small army of employees dusting the airport. They were dusting corners, walls, the escalator. The sound of vacuuming was the only constant in this airport. They even came and dusted my table numerous times while I sat there. I’d love to go outside and see where all this dust is coming from. Three beautiful women in burkas with large white running shoes and sparkly handbags sat down next to me to have espressos. They asked me how the hot chocolate was. I said very nice. They said they would order it next time. Apparently they pass through this airport all the time as they jetset around the region. I want to know more but they are gone before I can ask.

I remember at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam they offered tours for passengrs with long layovers. You could choose from 2, 4 or 6 hour tours based on how much time you had before boarding your next flight. I wish all airports in the world would catch on to this… that is when we are allowed back in said airports.

Verdict: I enjoyed my 6 hours at Hamad. Only one hot chocolate that seemed worth it though. Qataf Café, Terminal A, Hamad International Airport, Qatar One hot chocolate and two small baklavas cost me QAR 37.00.