[Review] Brussels to Doha in Business Class with Qatar Airways

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have my first experience of travelling in Business Class. And not just with any airline either – I was onboard with the opulent, award-winning Middle-Eastern airline, Qatar Airways.Unless you’re a celebrity or high-powered business-person, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Here, I’ve broken down some of the highlights of my Qatar Airways Business Class experience.

Once onboard

katie-harrington-qatar-airways-giorgio-armaniThe first thing you notice onboard is the level of individual attention you get. With just a dozen or so passengers in Business Class, the Purser greets each individual warmly and personally. The cabin crew greet you by name, and treat you like a superstar. Once seated, you’re served a beverage, and your first little surprise is that the flight kit your eye mask and flight socks come in is branded Giorgio Armani, and comes with an intoxicating travel-sized perfume and body lotion from their Si collection. Already, my expectations are exceeded.

The rich middle-aged people sitting near me smiled indulgently as I took photos of everything from the perfume to the bowl of warm mixed nuts I was served before take-off – they knew I wasn’t a regular around these parts.

The safety announcement

katie-harrington-qatar-airways-safety-videoThis isn’t a specifically Business Class thing, it’s across the board, but I wanted to give a mention to Qatar Airways’ safety video. The airline sponsors Barcelona FC, and rather than create a standard, boring safety video that nobody pays any attention to, they’ve put quite a lot of effort and imagination into creating a different kind of video starring the Barcelona players and their own cabin crew.

The players demonstrate the safety features from the football pitch, the subs bench, the crowds and other settings, while a commentator highlights important instructions. I was really impressed with this and thought it was a great way to engage people in an important topic that many people ignore.

The food

katie-harrington-qatar-airways-business-classRather than doling out food to everyone in one go as happens in Economy, the crew ask you before take-off what time you would like to have your meal at. It’s a small touch but it’s a great touch that once again makes you feel that little bit special! I really enjoyed the Arabic mezze I had for starter, although the hummus may have lost a little of it’s flavour at altitude (did you know that flying impacts the flavour of food?). The main course of chicken and veg was simple but tasty, and the dessert of ice cream and berries was delicious. Although I don’t drink alcohol, I felt the occasion called for some bubbles, so I ordered what turned out to be a very enjoyable glass of Qatar Airways’ sparkling grape juice, So Jennie.

 

Sinking in to the comfort

imageI was delighted to be seated in the very first row in a window seat. Most of the solo travellers seemed to have been given this option, while the middle seats were given to couples who might have wanted to sit together. The seat reclines fully without encroaching on the person sitting behind you. I sat up straight while I was reading, reclined a little for maximum relaxation while I watched the latest Hunger Games movie, and lay down flat for a nap mid-way through the flight. The level of comfort was incredible, and I didn’t even realise until after the flight that those chairs have a massage button too! I’ll know for next time.I don’t know if Qatar Airways have totally caught up with Emirates yet in terms of in-flight entertainment, but it’s very close. The bathrooms were much more luxurious, with shaving kits and toothbrushes left out for passengers.

 

 

Destination reached

I was almost sad that my flight was only six hours long, but I was totally reinvigorated by the time we landed in Doha. Since my least favourite part of any flight is waiting for all the slow coaches to get their hand luggage and get off when the plane touches down, I loved strolling off the plane without any queueing. I was directed straight to the Business Class Lounge, where they have an immigration counter with no queues, so there was zero stress upon landing.

Overall, it was an incredible travel experience, and one that I hope I get to do again in the future.

Have you ever travelled in Business? Or even First Class? What was the highlight of the experience for you?

Looking for great accommodation in Doha at incredibly reasonable prices? Check out Air BnB. Join with this link to get a US$35 discount on your first stay.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook, and I’m also trying to get more involved with Twitter! If you want to know more about me, click here.

5 ways to meet people in a new city

Doha is the fifth city I’ve lived in across three countries over the last six years. I never set out to live such a nomadic life, but that’s where fate has taken me. There are so many advantages to expat life, but those first six months in a new country can be lonely too.

Here are some tried and tested ways I’ve used to make friends:

Join a sports club: Just a few weeks ago, I joined a sports club here in Doha – something I never would have had the confidence to do not so long ago. I chose a sport I like, and made contact with the guys that run it over Facebook. I told them that I’m totally unfit, but keen to meet new people. The club couldn’t have been more welcoming, and there are plenty of other newbies there to keep me company, so I don’t feel too embarrassed that I can’t kick a ball straight. There’s a certain camaraderie that you find on a sports team that’s slightly different from other hobbies (more below)

MeetUp: If you land in a city where you know literally no one, meetup.com is a valuable tool. It’s a tool for bringing people with similar interests together, and in most cities you can find a really diverse bunch of groups, from runners to gamers, hikers to socialites, footballers to toastmasters. No matter how obscure your interest is, there are bound to be other people in your new city who are into it too. If you haven’t got any hobbies you’re particularly passionate about, this is the ideal time to try something new.

If you can’t find a group for your particular interest, it’s really easy to set up your own. While I was in Dubai, I set up a book club this way, and it was a huge success.

Do some volunteer work: Since Doha is smaller than Dubai, where I lived previously, I had to think IMG_3107-0outside the box a little to find things to do. Volunteering at the Qatar Animal Welfare Society has been a really fulfilling way of spending my spare time. There are double benefits here, I get to spend time with the animals which makes me happy in any case, and I also get to meet super friendly people out there who share at least one interest in common with me!

Friends of friends: In today’s hyper-connected world, the chances are you know someone who knows someone in your new city. Your cousin’s friend, your colleague’s brother, your old housemate’s ex… Be brazen, get in touch, ask to be introduced or just add them on Facebook. Every expat knows what it’s like to be starting out in a new city, so more than likely you’ll find someone who’s happy to show you around.

Do things alone: No matter how successful you are at making friends, there will be times, especially inEd Sheehan in Doha the beginning, when no one’s free. Never think you can’t go out for steak, see a movie or go to a concert because you don’t have someone to go with – In fact, it’s when you go do stuff like that solo that you end up meeting new people! My second week in Doha Ed Sheeran played the QNCC – I didn’t know anyone well enough to invite them to come with me, but there was no way I was missing that.

 

Bonus tips:

  • Befriend a local ASAP to get insider knowledge on the city
  • Don’t turn down any invite
  • Taking up a completely new hobby opens you up to a completely new set of people
  • Remember that if you get out there, in six short months you’ll have friends from everywhere from New Zealand to Zimbabwe

Dean and David: A hipsterish vibe and healthy food

Very quick foodie post – I had dinner with some friends at Dean and David on the Pearl last night. The Dean and David decormenu has lots of Asian dishes, many of them vegan or gluten free. The set up almost feels like a cafeteria style – but a very funky one. It had a very young, lively vibe, and it was busy for a Saturday night. Despite a slight mix-up with my meal, the service is still better than most places in Doha.

I went for a vegan red Thai curry, and it was very authentic. The veggies tasted very fresh, and they weren’t overcooked, they were crunchy – which was nice. I’m back on a health kick again this week, so I was glad I went for that and not ordered Indian take-away as we had planned. Having said that, the white rice ruined the illusion that this was a healthy meal, it would have been good to have brown rice instead.

Dean and David decor 2The decor is cute. There are some cool light fixtures, and the trees add to the green and natural feel of the place. At about QR35 for a main meal, rising to QR50 if you add a drink and a salad, the place is also very reasonably priced.

Ideal for meeting friends for a quick bite and a chat, it’s not a place that’s very intimate or suitable for
private conversations.

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more posts,

Doha vs Dubai… (Part 2)

One of the most common searches that leads people to this site is Doha vs Dubai, a post I wrote shortly after I arrived in Doha in February 2015. Six months in, here’s a more thorough update on this tale of two cities.

I moved to Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, where I spent two years, in 2009. I moved from there to Abu Dhabi city, and then spent about ten months in England before moving to Dubai in 2012. So with four Middle Eastern towns and cities behind me, here are my thoughts on the Doha vs Dubai debate.

Lifestyle: It’s undeniable that there is more to do in Dubai, but since I wasn’t the type to spend my weekends skydiving or skiing, that doesn’t bother me a lot. Doha has plenty of malls and hotels too! If you think of Doha more like a medium-sized town than a capital city, you’ll get a good idea of what there is to see and do.

Jet skiing in DohaIn terms of hobbies, you’ll find all the usuals in terms of gyms, yoga classes, water sports, cross-fit, sports clubs, book clubs, drama groups etc. The Corniche area is lovely to walk along and see dhows going in and out, and I go to Souq Waqif about once a week for food, shisha or a walk around when the weather allows. However, if clubbing is a big part of your social life, you are in for a bit of a shock in Doha – it’s not comparable to Dubai’s nightlife at all.

I would say that because the expat community in Doha isn’t as large, I was forced to get out of my comfort zone. In order to meet new people and make a decent circle of friends, I had to try new things. This can be a bit of effort, but overall I would say it has been very rewarding.

Qatari culture: Local culture is quite similar to Abu Dhabi, but not as liberal as Dubai. Rules around dress codes are enforced a bit more strictly, and PDAs are out of the question. Again, for me personally, it’s not a big deal. On the odd day I do wear a shorter-than-usual dress, I don’t get any hassle, but for the most part my mini-skirt days are behind me in any case!

I heard terrible things about Qatari people in the Emirates and I can categorically say it’s not true. I workFalconry with a lot of Qataris, and I’ve made several Qatari friends during my time here. I can tell you that they are a generous, good-humoured and intelligent people, working hard to find a balance between being progressive and holding true to their traditional values. I do find the cavalier attitude to human rights abuses here difficult to take, but realistically, it’s no worse here than it is in the UAE.

Cost of living: Rent, eating out and socialising are more expensive in Doha than Dubai, but I would say taxis, beauty treatments and groceries are cheaper. Salaries are higher in Qatar than the UAE, so overall I would say I can afford a better lifestyle here. Example: I paid AED4,000/month to live in a really nice apartment in the DIFC in Dubai – but for that price, all I could get was a windowless maid’s room, which got super depressing after a while. In Doha, I pay QAR7,000 per month, and for that I get a reasonable sizes one bedroom apartment including all furniture and bills, in an area that was once quite vibrant before West Bay and the Pearl were built. Today, it still has lots of places to eat out and shop nearby.

I love my job.

I love my job.

Career: Qatar is a great place to come for career development. If you’re smart and you get in with the right company, you can rise the ranks fast and in many cases, you can earn great bonuses. However, I have several friends who have horror stories about salaries not getting paid on time (or at all). Be careful, do your research, come out with a respectable company and you should be find. Of the bigger companies people travel here to work for, Qatar Airways has developed quite a reputation for itself, and it is wise to do your due diligence before you sign up with them. Oil and gas companies and government entities have the best benefits.

Frustrations: Of course, Doha has its frustrations. For a city with such a small population, the traffic is ridiculous. I have mostly avoided this by living within walking distance of work, but road rage is a problem here, and there is no public transport. The inshallah culture is strong here, which is often annoying for Westerners, and customer service in everything from utilities to restaurants is uniformly terrible. Take a deep breath and resist the temptation to swear or give the finger!

Have you got any questions on the differences between Doha and Dubai? Leave a comment. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

Moving to Doha?

This book answers the most common questions new expats in Qatar have, from the big things like what areas you should live in, where you should send your kids to school and women’s rights, to the little things like where you can order Thai food from on a Friday night, or get happy hour in.

expat-life-in-doha

Fun and festivities: Celebrating Garangao

Traditionally, on the 14th night of Ramadan, a children’s celebration called Garangao takes place across the Gulf. Children dress up in traditional clothes, sing the Garangao song and their neighbours give them sweets and nuts. Last night, I attended a corporate Garangao event.

There was falconry  
 

Characters from Khaleeji cartoons  

Super cute kids  

Traditional music and crafts And lots more including board games for kids and adults, storytelling, face painting and so on. It was SO MUCH FUN.

Ramadan is such a great time for expats and non-Muslims to get to know about local culture.

Have any of you celebrated Garangao? What was your favourite part?

Five-year-old kids explain Islam

Back in 2009, when I first moved to the Gulf, I worked as a teacher in Abu Dhabi. I taught Grade 1 kids, five and six-year-olds everything apart from Arabic and Islamic. When they ran back to me after Islamic, they would tell me little bits of what they had learned, but occasionally I couldn’t help but feel they were embellishing a little on what their teacher had taught them.

1G

Here are some of the bits of information and insight they gave me.

They love Allah, a lot.

Allah lives in a star in the sky, and he can see the whole world.

He watches all of us and he knows when we tell lies or say bad words about our Moms and Dads.

Isn’t he busy watching everyone all the time? No, because Allah is strong.

If Allah wanted to he could come down and box you in the face right NOW.

If you are very good and you do what Allah says in the Koran, Allah will give you any-any-anything you want, you can wish for anything.

Shaitan (the devil – Satan?) lives in the fire. He used to be very, very good, but then he didn’t do what Allah said so Allah put him in the fire. (not unlike Lucifer)

Sometimes, Shaitan comes into our heads and tells us to do bad things.

They exchanged looks of shock when they asked me if I am Muslima and I said no. My favourite boy, Ibrahim then told me I am going to go to the fire because I am not Muslim, but luckily for my mortal soul, he took it back a few minutes later saying “It’s okay, miss. You are good. I think Allah not put you in the fire because you are good”

Is Allah a boy or a girl? I got a couple of different answers here. Two of the boys felt very strongly that Allah is definitely a boy, but the other two reckoned Allah can do whatever he wants, and he can be a boy or a girl, depending on what kind of mood he’s in, I presume.

Out of the mouths of babes.

*Note: Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim readers. Please know this post is meant to highlight the innocence and cuteness of the kids I used to teach, and what happens when little people start talking about grown up topics. It’s not intended in any way to be disrespectful.

About Katie

katie-harrington-ireland

Katie Harrington is a 28-year-old travel and lifestyle blogger from Galway, Ireland. 

“I’m passionate about seeing the world and meeting people from different countries. I love noticing the similarities and differences between people around the world. In a divided world, I genuinely believe that experiencing other cultures first hand is one of the best ways to combat prejudice.

“In between travel, I write about Irish events, restaurants, and news, as well as opinion pieces on topical issues.”

 

Doha versus Dubai: That is the question 

Edit: I wrote this post shortly after I arrived in Doha. If you’d like to read a similar post comparing Doha to Dubai written six months later, click here.

As soon as people find out I moved to Doha from Dubai, they want to know all about it. “Which do you like better?” they ask, and I can tell by their expression they’re expecting me to start slating Doha. The truth is, I like it here. I felt in my heart when I got my new job that taking it was the right choice. I decided that I was going to like Qatar, and it was the best decision I made in a while.

 

In my five years in the Middle East, I had never even taken a weekend trip to Qatar and the warnings from my friends in Dubai were dire. Traffic is awful, the people aren’t friendly, the cost of living is higher, the standard of living is lower, there’s no infrastructure, moving to Doha would be a huge mistake and I’d be back within six months… I have to admit, it was pretty scary, but then I realised that almost all of the people telling me these horror stories had actually never been to Doha. Their opinions were based on gossip and rumour, and for the most part they just aren’t true. Later, I started talking to people who had lived in the city, and their view was a lot more positive.

 

When I went to see for myself, I found a great little city. There’s a community feel here that you just don’t get in Dubai, which can seem like a concrete jungle in the beginning. I can see why people would rather raise families here. I felt really lonely during my first six months in Dubai, and I don’t feel like that here. That might be more to do with where I’m at in my life than either of the cities, but I think there is a welcoming, open atmosphere here that helps. In Dubai, I felt like I had to fend for myself.

 

I love seeing the dhows and the fishing boats along the Corniche. Dubai sometimes feels like a city that has no history, and while that’s not totally true, you have to hunt for it. Watching the little fishing boats going in and out of the bay feels like a little bit of history right in front of you. In general, it feels more like an Arabic country than Westernised Dubai, and that might feel like a drawback to some, but I enjoy exchanging salam alykum’s with shopkeepers and greeting my colleagues with ‘sabah al khair’ in the morning.

 

I also really like Qatar’s focus on museums; the Museum of Islamic Art is the only one I’ve been to so far, and it was a really interesting way to pass a couple of hours. Some people criticise, saying none of the exhibits are Qatari, they’re brought from around the world, but to me this isn’t a problem – in fact, most major international museums do the same. In the same way, huge efforts are being made to turn Doha into a regional jazz hub, with Jazz at the Lincoln Centre, the Oryx, and lots of other places with a focus on live music.

 

I’ve heard the same criticism in Dubai, that they are trying to import culture that doesn’t traditionally exist in the Gulf, but it’s important to remember these cities have only existed for a few decades – naturally, they aren’t going to be able to compare in historical terms with the centuries of tradition and culture that exist in Europe. If anything, I think it’s great that they are trying, and it should be commended, not criticised.

 

Of course, Dubai has advantages over Doha – there’s more choice in terms of things to do, places to eat and nightlife, but Doha is making sterling efforts to catch up. And anyone who has gotten lost in the Dubai Mall (or its car park) might argue Dubai has too much choice – so much that it’s almost impossible to take it all in. Doha does need to make strides in terms of public transport and regulating the taxi service, and managing traffic better. It would do the city the world of good if they brought city planners in from Europe or the States to rework the road network somehow.

 

For now, I’m really looking forward to visiting friends in Dubai who became family while I was living there – I know it’s going to be awesome to go back there for weekends, but I’m really happy to be living here in Doha.

 

If you enjoyed this post, follow me on Facebook and Instagram

 

Are you signed up for Air BnB? Click the image to get $35/€30 off your first booking.

air-bnb

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons