JUMPING on an impromptu 8-hour flight for a 3-day stay highlights my serendipitous personality. Luckily, this time around, it happened as news of the reopening of Raffles in Doha surfaced.
Also, I’ve never been to the desert; let’s lead with that. Does it matter if you spend more time above the ground than in the actual country? Absolutely not. So, when I was going down the aisle of the Business Premium class of Qatar Airways, my only thought was that champagne would be awaiting for me alongside my personal in-flight Diptique kit.
Qatar Airways is a very clever airline. They equate flying to a luxury spa experience. More so, the staff at their in-flight bar (available on select routes) become your friends as you venture towards the desert together.
When I arrived in Doha, the first thing that took me aback was how hospitable people were, from demeanour to service. And the shape of our hotel. Landmark for Doha’s skyline, the horse-shoe-like construction is actually an ode to the history of the land. The crescent-shaped building, inspired by the two curved swords in the emblem of Qatar, brings along with them a sense of humbleness in the face of architecture.
Raffles is synonymous with ultra-luxury. The chain prides itself on that. Everything is calculated to the T, from the decor to the service, with nothing left to chance. Marking Qatar’s commitment to sustainability, the project is the country’s first to receive certification for GSAS Design & Build with a 5 Star rating with features including reused stormwater collection, high-tech lighting control systems and energy-efficient fixtures, and appliances to reduce its energy footprint further.
I’m welcomed into its opulence with warmth from my dedicated butler. I never thought I wanted a butler until I found myself mouthing the words, ‘I hope my butler has a Negroni out when I get home’ whilst returning from the desert after a day of sandshoeing and camel riding. Another sentence that I don’t write very often.
You can get used to extreme luxury very quickly. Raffles is an experiential hotel where much thought has been put into its ‘people-first’ mentality. At dusk, scents that induce sleep permeate the suite. And at dawn, fresh mint awakens you to your senses. It’s all very Black Mirror. The whole of Qatar is a very Black Mirror experience, as a matter of fact. You need to be there to understand the level of complexity and technology.
But in my natural fashion, what I found most impressive about Raffles was the Blue Cigar bar. With its dizzying collection of 6,000 literary classics — the largest book-buying project in the world, including 200 first-edition books — Blue Cigar is a place for leisurely reading sessions and inspiring conversations elevated by an eclectic music signature. Blue Cigar bar must be Doha’s best-kept secret, with cocktails inspired by famous authors’ drinks while writing the likes of Oliver Twist, Moby Dick or The Odyssey.
Until we were introduced to Alba by Enrico Crippa. Enrico Crippa’s world-famous, three Michelin-starred venue Piazza Duomo cemented his reputation as the ‘multicoloured master of the vegetable’. For his first international opening, Alba brings the acclaimed chef’s brilliant contemporary revisitation of classic Italian cuisine to an Italian-inspired venue in the heart of Raffles.
As a 360, Raffles does offer its guests everything. It’s a technological peak for the hospitality industry. The building made me feel like I was deprived of basic intelligence–at the best of times. With sustainability at heart and a people-first mentality, it’s only a matter of time before people change their perspective on Doha and understand it as a far more complex part of the Middle East.
With even more initiatives going forward, the Raffles&Fairmont chain has cemented itself as a staple to Qatar’s hospitality scene from its on-set.
by Adina Ilie
Raffles Doha is located on Marina East Street, Lusail in Doha, Qatar. Prices start from £1,095 per night. Book via www.raffles.com/doha.
Qatar Airways is the national carrier of the State of Qatar and Skytrax ‘Airline of the Year’ 2022, currently flying to 150 destinations via its hub at Doha’s Hamad International Airport. Book via www.qatarairways.com.