As Qatar Airways offers another option for flying from Perth to Europe, Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield looks at stopover stays in Doha.
GRAND HYATT DOHA
Behind closed doors, something is definitely going on. "Good afternoon, Mr Scourfield. Did you enjoy the desert?" a staff member at Grand Hyatt Doha's reception asks me.
During my faultless five days here, this has been a recurring theme. It is not just that many members of staff know my name, or that I am off on a four-wheel tour through the dunes to Qatar's Inland Sea, it is that they connect.
There is some clearly professional, detailed briefing going on behind closed doors - but over and above that, they connect at a human level.
The five-star Grand Hyatt Doha has lived up to every expectation.
On the room front, even the most affordable rooms cover a sizeable 40sqm, feeling spacious and well appointed. There are many quality touches to the layout and design, to quality linen, furnishings and bathroom fittings. There are 249 rooms and 39 spacious suites.
I am delighted to be able to open the slide door and sit out on the balcony - every room has one - overlooking the gardens and beach. For the hotel follows the design of an emir's palace.
It has a big private beach, three outdoor swimming pools, an indoor 25m pool, big gym and landscaped gardens. It also has the highly rated Jaula Spa.
I think Grand Hyatt Doha benefits from being 10km from the centre of Doha (and 20km from the airport). Doha is the sort of place you launch forays into, either by taxi or by joining a tour, and then return to the comfort of the hotel.
On the dining front, there are six options, and I might just tell you this, that from a room service Arabian mezza plate, less than $20 and including Arabic bread hummus, tabouleh, feta cheese, olives, pickles, waraq enab (stuffed grape leaves) and mutabbal (eggplant dip) to a full breakfast to a wonderful dinner at Rocco, every meal was superb.
Grand Hyatt Doha has been working closely with Qatar Airways to package stopovers, and some of the airline's best fares for flights are those that include 48 hours in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The hotel also has a deal of about $160 per night, per grand room, for a minimum stay of three nights.
Hotels remind me of champagne fountains; everything flows down, and there is no doubt that Australian general manager Garry Friend, with executive assistant manager rooms Walter Gag alongside, and with 25 years' experience with Hyatt, is responsible for much of the ethos of this fine hotel.
SHARQ VILLAGE: ECHOES OF TRADITIONAL QATARI LIVING
Sharq Village is an interesting hotel, as rooms are set in villas with inner courtyards — in clusters that have a real village-like feel.
This 174-room village reflects traditional architecture, perhaps giving a feel of traditional Qatari home life. There are seven dining options offering Middle Eastern flavours — Qatari, Lebanese, Iranian.
There is a big Six Senses Spa, covering 6500sqm and with 23 treatment rooms. Sharq Village is close to the current airport and will benefit from the opening of New Doha International Airport, on reclaimed land in the sea, on December 12.
ORYX ROTANA: QUALITY CONTEMPORARY FIVE-STAR HOTEL
Oryx Rotana has been open for only two years but was recently named the Middle East’s best airport hotel in the 2012 Skytrax awards and 10th in the world.
The “airport hotel” tag might even be a bit of a misnomer because this is clearly a quality, five-star hotel in its own right, with a bright, contemporary design and feel.
The 400-room hotel is good for breaking, say, a flight to London with a single-night stopover. There is an emphasis on dining with six eating venues. As a guide to price, the most affordable room might be from about $160 a night.