If you’re traveling to Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (HIA), you might want to budget several hours of your time. It’s not because getting through the queues is slow — it’s lightning-quick if you’re on their E-passport program — but because it’s probably the most luxurious airport on the planet!
The magnificent airport was opened in 2014 with the idea of turning Doha, the capital city of Qatar, into a worldwide aviation hub. It now handles a massive 30 million travelers annually.
In spite of the number of people who travel through HIA, the airport is silent. Apart from the Islamic call to prayer that is broadcast five times a day, this airport is free of annoying announcements to disturb you. You’d sometimes never know that you were one of thousands of travelers at the airport on a particular day because it’s so quiet. The airport is also spotless, with every surface gleaming from rigorous effort.
You realize there’s something special about HIA when you are approaching. The airport’s structure is truly magnificent. It is built on land that has been reclaimed from the sea, and its design reflects its coastal setting with a rippling rooftop. Adding to the watery theme is a mosque next door that looks like a giant drop of water. When you walk into the departure hall, you check in inside a high-ceilinged hall that is lit by natural sunlight streaming through hundreds of tiny skylights.
From the very beginning, you are struck by the incredible artwork on display. Unlike the usual artwork displayed at airports, the art chosen for Hamad International Airport is something you’re unlikely to forget anytime soon.
Some of it is fairly low-key, like the fake birds placed on top of the information displays. Other works are far more arresting and sometimes downright subversive. For example, one piece entitled “Lamp Bear” by Swiss artist Urs Fischer is a gigantic yellow teddy bear that sits under a black lamp. It’s so unexpected and crazy that crowds of people are always trying to take selfies with it. In fact, art afficionados would do well to set aside several hours of their time to take in all of the airport’s amazing artwork. It’s a feast for the senses.
If you’re not all that interested in art, there are the usual airport stores and restaurants, including big-name brands Gucci, Swarovski, Rolex, Burberry and Coach.
If you just want to relax before another long flight, the communal seating area is decorated in Italian-style leather and chrome. If you’re tired enough to not want to stand on one of the moving walkways, you can catch an indoor train to get you there even faster. And if you’re dying for a workout, the airport boasts a brilliant gym that includes a giant swimming pool, two squash courts and the full range of workout equipment. You can even indulge in some spa treatments and hydrotherapy. You can also check into a room or family suite for eight hours or more.