Pop the kettle on and settle into your comfiest chair because I’d like to tell you all a little story about our recent stay at the Mandarin Oriental Doha…
Once upon a time there was a stressed out wife who complained to her husband that she needed a break. She hadn’t left the country since Christmas and ever since then she had lain awake at night, dreaming of the family’s next escape, setting her sights on new adventures to far-flung places and the intrepid exploration of foreign lands.
Unfortunately Luckily her ever-practical and pragmatic husband brought her itchy feet back down to earth with a bump, reminding her that they already had two months of travelling coming their way over the summer, and suggested that they maybe opt for a staycation instead.
Of course I agreed with him. When it’s not possible to travel abroad, for financial, practical or other reasons, I am a huge advocate of taking yourself away for a short holiday at home. In fact I’d go so far as to say that I believe that the ‘staycation’ – a mini break away from your home life, which could constitute anything from day trips to explore new places and take part in new activities, right through to a hotel stay somewhere down the road not too far from home, is becoming a vital constituent of modern life.
I’ve started to notice a growing trend amongst myself, my friends and my acquaintances: in an increasingly busy and pressurised world, it can be difficult to find time away from the stresses and worries of the day to be your genuine authentic self. We all feel that we need to conform to society’s stringent (and often confusing!) expectations of us and to keep up the facade day in, day out without a break is, quite frankly, exhausting.
With a phone full of information in your pocket, constantly buzzing for your attention; a head full of social, parental, relationship, career and personal pressures and responsibilities and a society that feeds off our insecurities, comparison and fear, it’s a wonder that we haven’t all gone a little cuckoo!
Our heavily-researched staycation spot of choice, the newly-opened Mandarin Oriental Doha is the antithesis to all of this, providing a safe-haven and oasis of calm in the centre of Downtown Doha, which, upon entering, instantly envelopes its guests in its tranquility and brings about a sense of calm.
Known for its legendary hospitality, the Mandarin Oriental hotel group operates some of the world’s most impressive properties at sought-after locations all over the world. With customer satisfaction and attention to detail at the forefront of everything they do, I knew from the moment I finalised our booking arrangements, that our stay would be a special one.
The reception we received as we drew up outside the front of the hotel was impeccable. It felt as though they were already waiting for us (which, because the hotel was not at full capacity and they had asked the time of our arrival, is entirely plausible). They whisked up to the incredible first floor reception area, for a much quieter and more personal and intimate check-in than we are used to.
Sitting to one side of the cavernous lobby, edged with individual hand carved wooden plaques, while the concierge got down on her knees and asked Sophia what her food, drink and entertainment preferences were, I relaxed, safe in the knowledge that this stay was going to provide something special for ALL of the family, not just me.
Our room was a Deluxe Suite, with a living room, bedroom and spacious dressing room.
I loved the elegant design of the living room with its combination of modern, comfortable sitting areas for lounging, designer table for working or dining, and floor-to-ceiling windows which flooded the room with light.
The bedroom was both cosy and chic all at once, with a modern design, inspired by traditional Qatari elements.
There were thoughtful touches for Sophia throughout, with a cot set up, her own slippers and dressing gown and even a range of kids’ cosmetics and accessories, which I was grateful for as we’d forgotten to pack her toothbrush.
The pièce de résistance, however, was the marbled bathroom with it’s enormous circular bath (which Sophia aptly named ‘the swimming pool in our bedroom’!) and dreamy walk-in rain shower, which Rich had to be dragged from before breakfast was over in the morning.
Our favourite spot in the whole of the Mandarin Oriental Doha is undoubtedly the rooftoop pool area, which is dotted with tropical-style cabanas and provides an idyllic spot for panoramic views across the roofs of Doha at sunset.
I also had the opportunity to try out the world class spa facilities and experience an incredible massage, which (following six years of extensive research), I can verify is one of the best you can experience in Qatar. All of the therapies on offer are in line with the Mandarin Oriental group’s signature treatments, and are inspired by the ancient oriental wellness philosophies of Qi. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than that!
Our daytime dining took place on the ground floor of modern Mediterranean restaurant, Izu, the location of one of the best breakfasts we are yet to have in Doha. Must-tries include the truffled scrambled egg and the eggs benedict, but I am reliably-informed by friends that have visited that absolutely everything on the menu is divine. Just be warned that you might need to dig a little deeper into your pockets for this one as the dishes are on the more expensive side of average.
For dinner in the evening, we moved to the slightly more refined and formal dining experience on the upper floor of Izu, where we were completely blown away. The concept of the restaurant is ideally-suited to ordering several dishes for sharing, which, because we are prone to a bit of food envy, we enjoyed.
Sophia also loved the waiting staff who were attentive and friendly towards her, fetching her crayons and activities, as well as a child-friendly menu.
The simplicity of the ingredients which have been expertly combined to pack a flavour punch, took us right back to our honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast.
Hats off to Director of Food and Beverage, Marc Epper, whose hands-on approach to curating sensational menus using the finest ingredients across all of the hotel’s restaurants will not go unnoticed.
Look out for: the stylish and intimate watering hole, Ambar; al fresco dining and drinks at Aqua; authentic Cantonese cuisine at Chinese Restaurant; afternoon tea experiences at Mandarin Lounge and Baraha Lounge, and nine open kitchens showcasing international cuisine at Mosaic – all opening soon.
And don’t forget to visit Gelato on the ground floor for some of the best homemade ice cream in town!
An estimated $5.5 billion was spent on the redevelopment of Msheireb, a 31 hectare ‘city within a city’ in Downtown Doha just next to the Corniche, and a stone’s throw away from Souq Waqif, Qatar National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art.
The investment shows.
Msheireb means ‘a place to drink water’ in Arabic, and it certainly feels like an oasis in contrast to the stark desert and bustling city outside. The development is an eclectic mix of modern residential developments; cultural, community and hospitality offerings and a place of historical preservation.
At its centre, the Mandarin Oriental Doha looks out over the region’s largest covered and air conditioned square, Barahat Msheireb, which is set to become a community hub, providing street entertainment, community fairs and performances. The atmosphere is almost palpable, hinting at the vibrant lifestyle that the area has ambitions to establish.
Within walking distance is a brand new shopping centre, Galleria, set to open in 2020; the Heritage Quarter, housing the Msheireb Museums and two other luxury hotels: MGallery’s Al Wadi Hotel and the five star Park Hyatt.
Look out for the buzz that will build around this area as more shops and restaurants open their doors – I have absolutely no doubt that it will become the place to see and be seen in Doha.
I was looking for a break away from the real world. I wanted to go somewhere that I could be myself, while enjoying some quality time reading books and splashing in pools with my family. I was looking for excellent food in a serene setting; somewhere where I could ‘reset’ my batteries and be absolutely present in the moment, with not a single bit of notice taken to the looming deadlines and impending responsibilities waiting for me at home.
I was looking for a complete break for the mind, body and soul.
I thought I was asking for quite a lot but much to my surprise, the Mandarin Oriental Doha offered all of this and more.
Please read my disclaimer here.