72 Hours in The Middle East: Hamad International Airport and Al Mourjan Lounge

*This series covers a once in a lifetime trip with my dad. He is a member of an elite squad known as – no, not the Special Victim’s Unit – the Concierge Key Crew. He has flown and accrued over 12 million miles with American Airlines and, as such, he has been invited to be part of this unpublished, invite only, members’ club. You can’t buy your way in or request membership – you must fly some unpublished number of flights/miles per year in order to gain entry. He flies a certain number of qualifying miles each year to keep his outrageous perks. Every year he does a few crazy, 72 hour trips in premium cabins to  maintain his status. This time, he invited me to accompany him. This is my story.  (DUNH DUNH – SVU music).*

The Hamad International Airport makes every airport in the USA and Western Europe (that I have visited) look like a KMart in Kansas.

NO offense, Kansas.

No joke, these airports are amazing.

And weird.

Jut like this whole trip.

Take a look, why don’t you?

20150201_051928Incredible Middle Eastern food in the food court. Seriously – the dolmades were the best that I have ever eaten. Filled with al dente, fragrant rice that was spiced with a ton of turmeric, cumin, and some nuts. Warm and garlicky; they are served with a dollop of tahini-rich hummus and a spritz of lemon. Delicious.

20150201_053155Skin lightening is a big deal here, just like in Asia. There were also always blonde, light skinned women in ads with men who were clearly darker skinned and of Arabic descent. Which is odd to me, because the Middle Eastern women I saw were among the most exquisite woman I have ever seen. The attendants on my flight would be movie stars here – that just goes to show you how standards of beauty differ around the world.

20150201_055122More luxury retailers than you can shake a stick at. Bring your platinum card. 
20150201_050827 An Arabic keyboard. It was just cool.

20150201_050614The UNBELIEVABLE Al Mourjan business lounge. Two floors, business center, a video game room, a huge restaurant…need I say more? This is the best lounge that I have ever experienced. It’s thousands of square feet with the most luxurious, over the top surroundings I have ever seen. There are more attendants that there are people int he lounge and anything that you can desire will be yours at a moment’s notice. Shower? Of course. Ipad? Naturally.

20150201_045655 Krug? But of course. That’s right…Krug served 24 hours a day, as much as you can handle until you fall asleep or barf. It’s almost obscene. Also, a chef noticed that I wasn’t taking anything from the dessert buffet and asked what was wrong. I just mentioned that I had enjoyed my fill of baklava for the moment and he fairly RUSHED to the kitchen to bring me a still warm pineapple custard pastry from the kitchen. I thought that he was going to cry if I didn’t try it in front of him. Luckily, it was outstanding –  as buttery and light as I have enjoyed in Paris. 

20150201_044655Foul medames. Like a very light, non-curried daal made with fava beans. It’s a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast and I can see why – it’s savory and filling without being heavy. My new obsession – I have to make it, stat. 
20150201_043751 Palm tree in the airport. Because that’s how Doha rolls.

20150201_043747 Chinese New Year!

20150131_192133The Middle Eastern place where we ate dolmades had longest line at a food court with Burger King, a salad place, and a Japanese spot. I love how most of the people here – you can see Qatar flight attendants in line! – actually eat the food that I imagine they do. I imagine that they might feel the same way when they see me scarfing down Shake Shack – it’s just cool!

20150131_192106French cheese and yogurt and herbs potato chips. I could KICK MYSELF for not buying these.

20150131_190801Should have bought this, too. 
20150131_185859Pistachio cotton candy!

20150131_185801An outpost of my FAVORITE date shop in London!

20150131_185408 $3,000 on cognac? Sure, why not? After all, you don’t get the credit card bill until you get home. 

20150131_184734The Qatari people LOVE Tang – they sold it everywhere and people were buying it like it was going out of style.

20150131_182659More Krug. I’m telling you, so much Krug. 20150131_182653Fabulous samosas, halloumi, tabbouleh, and babaganoush in the lounge. The chefs make it fresh and replace the buffet dishes every 20 minutes or so, whether the buffet dish is empty or not. The babaganoush is particularly memorable. It’s not at all creamy – it’s light and vinegary with flecks of raw red pepper and roasted not raw garlic. Sensational. 20150131_182225Chandelier big enough for ya? I mean, I could have held my WEDDING here. That’s how incredible this lounge was. 20150131_182207The fountain has little droplets that leap UP instead of dripping down. Nothing is too opulent out here. And no small detail is overlooked. 20150131_182106Two story lounge. Because the piddly satellite lounge in Heathrow is one floor…this one has to BEAT that one. And oh, it does.  20150131_181728Gold coffee bar, anyone?20150131_180547Airport hotel. BEFORE customs. That’s right, it’s airside. So if, like us, you are only land bound for 8 hours or so, you can quickly get to the hotel, eat, and sleep, before getting back up and waltzing right to your gate. None of that shuttle or passport BS. It’s SO EASY…why can’t we do this here?!20150131_180345The window peeks out onto the terminal, but don’t worry – there is a wooden window shade that both blacks out the room and keeps weirdos from looking in. As you can see, it’s a really lovely hotel room! 24 hour room service, spa, pool…it beats the hell out of a lot of NYC hotels! I would sleep here again in a heartbeat. 20150131_175037Really weird sculpture cost the Qatari royal family a gazillion dollars or so. 
20150201_051109Cyan, not blue! I love anything that reminds me that I’m not on my home turf.
20150201_053523Kidz n Cats…freakiest doll ever.

What an unbelievable airport. It’s large and confusing, but unbelievably luxurious. If you don’t have access to the Al Mourjan business lounge, you can access another lounge for a nominal fee. I can’t even imagine how the new first class lounge will top this one…what, will they be offering free puppies to play with while you wait for your gate?

Up next: An hour flight, a pastry from Paris, and our descent into Dubai.