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June 18, 2016 / oneworld82

Probably the best First Class lounge in the World – Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa at DOH

One of the highlights of this trip was certainly the Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa lounge, which opened not too long ago to First Class customers. What QR defines as first class, though, is kind of funny, because except for a bunch of A380s they do not offer any long-haul first class; instead, they label the premium cabin on intra-Middle East flights as First Class, likely to make locals happier and to provide them with a superior ground experience even on short-haul flights.

I took a cab into the Hamad International Airport – which by the way is a stunning facility – and got dropped off at the Business and First class check-in area, which has a separate entrance compared to the rest.

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Then customers are split between business class and first class ones. I was escorted to the check-in area, and this was possibly the most luxurious experience I had to date at check-in; there are individual open offices, where you sit down in front of a desk while an agent take care of everything. At the same time, dates and Arabic coffee is offered. For families waiting, there are nice armchairs in front of the check in pods.

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After that you walk through a long hallway through immigration and security, and then an escalator bring you upstairs straight to the First Class lounge entrance. Does it get any better than that?

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I was quickly admitted to the lounge, which is the most stunning club I have ever seen in my life. Like, it’s drop-gorgeous. There is a long hallway between the entrance and the main area, and this is like a museum, as there are artifacts from the Museum of Islamic Art along the walls, together with a stunning waterfall feature across good part of the opposite wall. The prayer rooms, the quiet room, and the spa are located along the hall, and then you get to the central area, which features another stunning water feature.

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I read on various reviews that one of the best thing of the lounge is that it always feels spacious and never crowded. I totally second that. I liked how I never felt like there were too many people around me – even though a closer look revealed actually a fair number of passengers in the lounge.

I was of course excited to try some food, and that’s another area the lounge excels in. There are two dining areas, both sit down but different. The first one, near the main bar (which by the way has a lot of seating and its manned by skilled bartenders), is a proper, restaurant-style dining room, with a-la-carte menu; the other one, more secluded and to the right (as you enter) of the central water feature, offers a more casual dining experience, with made-to-order sandwiches (and A LOT of toppings to choose from) and a sushi bar.

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I opted for the a-la-carte option, and as it was only 5pm only a couple of tables were taken. I was promptly handed a menu and offered a drink – champagne for me, please.

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The menu read as follows.

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I opted for the kibbeh and for the steak.

After no more than five minutes, my dinner was served, straight from the semi-open kitchen opposite to the bar. The kibbeh very fried – a different flavor than usual – but were good overall and served with a mayo- based dipping sauce.

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The steak was unfortunately well-done, but it still managed to be rather tender and as it was well seasoned it actually tasted fine. Throughout the meal, my glass of champagne and my water never went empty.

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I finished the meal with a chamomile, served in a French press. Neat.

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Overall, the food was good. I know many people compare lounge and airplanes food to restaurant meals, and to me that’s very silly because restaurant-quality food varies a lot, depending on the restaurant. While I have never had Mcihelin-star level food on a plan or in a lounge, I have had some very good food nonetheless, better than the food I had at many a restaurant out there (and I am not talking Applebee’s here!). So, to me that’s a comparison that doesn’t hold (and in the past I might have been guilty of it myself).

After my meal I explored the lounge a little more, and I found an “outdoor” seating area that was totally empty and private, and so I lounged there for a while taking care of some emails. To be clear, the area is not really outdoor, it just is outside the lounge and shares the same ceiling of the main terminal, just like the outdoor portion of BA’s Concorde Room does.

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Then I checked out the duty free store (similar to the one found in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal) and the cinema room (yep, it is just what it sounds like), before having another couple glasses of champagne – this time Taittinger Comtes de Champagne – at the bar.

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Also, the lounge features a real cinema…

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…and a real business center!

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Before I knew it, I had to leave this spectacular sanctuary of serenity and relaxation and head to my gate to catch my flight to Abu Dhabi. Well, what can I say… Al Safwa is simply stunning, and Qatar Airways set the bar for First Class lounges pretty high here. This is certainly better than Emirates’ First Class lounge in Dubai, and perhaps marginally better in terms of experience (but not of F&B) than LH’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt. Now I am even more interested in seeing what Etihad comes up with for their new First Class lounge in Abu Dhabi (which unfortunately I missed by only a few days), but it will be rather difficult to beat this exquisite lounge. Another job well-done, Qatar Airways!

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