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Aya Désirs d’Orient is looking at Qatar

Possibility of a 2 or 3 night stop-over


A Business destination before anything, with a strong hotel park of 45,000 rooms, Doha just witnessed the consecutive opening of two resorts with more touristic inclinations, the Banana Island Anantara, and on the peninsula The Pearl, the Marsa Malaz Kempinski. These two establishments have been retained by Aya, the tour-operator specialized in the Middle East, that added Qatar to its program for the first time.



Aya fixed itself a “modest” goal. Between 200 and 300 clients, including the passengers of Qatar Airways with a stop-over in Doha. But it is clear that this number is going to increase exponentially as we get closer to the Football World Cup 2022 - © Sophie James - fotolia.com
Aya fixed itself a “modest” goal. Between 200 and 300 clients, including the passengers of Qatar Airways with a stop-over in Doha. But it is clear that this number is going to increase exponentially as we get closer to the Football World Cup 2022 - © Sophie James - fotolia.com
The first scarves marked with Doha 2022, that are dear to football amateurs, have appeared in the “souq Warif” stalls.

The months of November and December of that year should witness football aficionados from the entire world rushing to the brand-new Qatari stadiums.

And there’s no doubt that Doha’s “skyline”, that makes its neighbors Dubai and Abu Dhabi blush, will have changed even more by that time considering the forests of cranes of all sizes currently seen all over Qatar’s capital.

By then, Doha will also have a new underground subway system, a network of trams, and intercity trains linking to the other cities in the country.

Meanwhile, curious travelers can get a sneak preview of this country that is going through a full metamorphosis.

Two solutions recommended by Aya, either enjoy the exceptional rates given by Qatar Airways and some hotels in Doha for a stop-over of two or three nights during a long-haul flight, or dedicate a bit more time to leisurely explore the different facets of the country.

And manage to hush the ongoing and trendy “Qatar Bashing”…

A country where everything is new

Arriving in a country where everything is new conveys quite a unique emotion, like a wave of hope in the future.

This sensation begins right at the Hamad International airport, built on platforms over the sea and inaugurated just one year ago.

With a capacity aimed at 22 million passengers, it will be fully ready for the major football party…

Leaving the airpot, confronted to the intense traffic of 4X4 and other SUVs, we realize quite quickly that in terms of scheduling we must plan ahead when it comes to getting around the city, even though the slow movement on the main avenue enables to observe pedestrians - the men wearing white dishdashas, the women in black abayas.

Another lovely surprise amongst this dense traffic is that the women, while veiled, are as agile at the wheel as the men.

A first difference, that is more than just symbolic, with its neighbor Saoudi Arabia, where women are still fighting for their right to drive a car…

Art at the center of Qatar’s will to open up

And Qatar’s will to open up also translates in artistic creation. At the cultural center of Qatara, the galleries also exhibit the works of local female artists.

Thus, the fine artist Al Mannai Nawal explains wanting to put her experience as a creator to the service of autistic children.

Another great surprise: the museum of Islamic art conceived by the architect Pei. In the first floor, an exhibit is taking place on the theme of the bestiaries associated to traditional Arabic fables.

At the entrance, the fantasy animals fixed to the ceiling are a direct reference to Marc Chagall’s world, of which we can find a few pastels next to the Persian miniatures. Opening to the world…

…But that remains limited. On the last floor of this beautiful building, the French chef Alain Ducasse prepares refined meals at the Idam restaurant…without, however, serving them with alcohol.

Smoothies and other drinks that are exquisitely prepared are paired with the lamb rissoles or its tender camel meat or its canapé of foie gras.

A unique experience of flavors, worth trying at least once in a lifetime. The complete menu goes for around 200 euros.

A very busy nightlife

But, aside from the long stroll on the ledge, the strategic spot to witness the local life is at the souq Warif, translating into “the market where we do business standing up.”

Reconstructed around twenty years ago on the location of the former souk that was destroyed by a fire, its alleys of stalls are overflowing with merchandise of all shapes and forms for the household, clothing, birds, and live and stuffed animals. From the most common to the rarest.

One has to reach the first floor to discover the most beautiful gold and precious stone ornaments of the jewelers.

In the middle of the souk, cafes and restaurants set up their terraces where families with children meet up, tables of men puffing on their hookah and talking, occidental visitors, Asian expats…

According to locals, the souk really comes to life at nightfall.

But for true night owls, the hotels are really where it’s at: the Four Seasons for sophisticated evenings, the W for trendy nights.

The bar Bohemia of the Kempinski offers molecular cocktails. The bar of the terrace of the Saint Regis is an almost mandatory stop for its “in-house” jazz club.

Another activity to highlight are the Spas, an almost necessary equipment in all major hotels.

At the Marsa Malaz Kempinski, of which the official inauguration will take place after the Ramadan 2015, it is the French brand Clarins that shines.

At the Anantara hotel on the Banana Island, the care offered is inspired by traditional Indian methods - one-time massages on one hand, or cures over various days for a rejuvenating effect.

And then, there’s the desert, right there…

3 questions to Walid Ben Zaied, Development Manager at Aya

TourMaG.com - Why did you add Qatar to the list of scheduled destinations by Aya?

Walid Ben Zaied: As an expert on the region, we must be the first to offer stays in Qatar.

The destination is mostly known for business travel, but the tourism office now wishes to place it at a touristic destination as well. Leisure and tourism hotels have just recently opened.

Furthermore, if clients travel with Qatar Airways towards Asia or the Indian Ocean, they have the possibility of doing two or three night stopovers in 4 to 5 star hotel at extremely competitive rates.

TourMaG.com - What advantages do you highlight to sell the destination?

WBZ: The combination of desert and beach is magical. You go on a 4X4 tour in the desert to arrive directly to the sea, and dive in pristine turquoise water, it’s an unforgettable moment!

And Qatar is also insisting on the cultural sector for tourism development. The museum of Islamic art, conceived by the architect Pei, is a wonder of architecture that exhibits a very interesting collection of mosaics, pottery, miniatures, coming for different parts of the Middle East.

There are also the collections of the National Museum, for which the architect Jean Nouvel has conceived the blueprints of its extension.

And there are also numerous international athletic events taking place in Doha.

TourMaG.com - What is your goal in terms of clients for this first year of scheduling Qatar?

WBZ: Our objective is modest. Between 200 and 300 clients, including the passengers of Qatar Airways who will opt for a stop-over in Doha.

But it is sure that this number is going to increase exponentially the closer we get to the World Cup of November/December 2022.

Written by Geneviève BIEGANOWSKI translated by Joséphine Foucher the 30/04/2015
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Tags : Qatar

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