Luxury benchmark


Qatar's first spa, a sophisticated cigar bar, a sprawling marina and a unique children's water park will be among the striking features at the Gulf's newest resort on the Arabian Sea.

The 374-room Ritz-Carlton Doha, one of the Middle East's most opulent and luxuriously designed hotel properties, is in its final weeks of preparation for a late September opening.

Built on an artificial island, the hotel's glass and chrome tower soars 115 metres above a sea and desert landscape in Doha's fast-developing West Bay lagoon area, promising to pamper guests with service to match the lavish dŽcor. The water park will be built on a smaller adjacent island.

Among the first guests could be delegates to the World Trade Organisation meeting scheduled for Doha in November. A special discount to mark the opening and valid until well into December could bring in some guests well before the WTO delegates step in.

"Doha is taking its place amongst the most influential nations in the Middle East. The number and calibre of visitors coming to the region makes this the ideal time to open a grand hotel," said the hotel's American general manager Darrell Sheaffer.

While Qatar's tourism authorities and the national airline Qatar Airways' holidays division will be serving up the country's natural and historical sites through packaged programmes, guests will find the hotel's own interior and ambience worth taking note of.

A 7.5-metre Viennese chandelier sprinkled with more than 2,000 crystals illuminating and embellishing an intricately patterned stone carpet floor and hanging over a Moorish-inspired fountain in the lobby's centre is one of the striking aspects of the dŽcor created by the hotel's interior designer John David Eddison of Toronto.

Some 30 varieties of stone and Italian marble line the corridors. Furnishings handcrafted in Spain and Italy include sea blue armoires with inlays of yellow and gold leaf. Rich gold leaf and shades of crimson red and black decorate the headboards while black and white calligraphy works of art hang on the walls.

Guest rooms and the 61 suites reflect a Middle Eastern preference for bright colours and contemporary style.

"Qatar and the Middle East have seen nothing like this," said public relations director Hoda Desouki as she tried to convey the grandeur and the dimensions.

The hotel features Club accommodations reachable only by keyed elevator access, the service covering a multilingual concierge, a private lounge area and five daily food and beverage presentations.

At the 23rd floor La Mer restaurant, guests will dine on Middle Eastern dishes "accentuated by the influences of European fusion", the menu including seared sumac-crusted duck livers on pomegranate and mache salad.

Other restaurant and eatery options are Porcini featuring Northern Italy's sauces and pastas; The Lagoon; the La Dolce Vita Pastry Shop; Flamingos; the Lobby Lounge and the Admiral's Club where seafood and steak will be served on the marina.

The Habanos, located at lobby level, will highlight premium cigars and a cellar of fine vintages.

"We have done a lot of research," says director of food and beverage Wolfie Malik, who has extensive experience in opening new hotels.

"This involved looking at the existing restaurants in Doha, talking to residents and identifying the types of cuisine they prefer and then building these ideas into the overall concept of our resort."

The marina itself will draw great interest. Designed for the obviously rich and famous who will moor their yachts to some 200 berths, it could become one of the most prominent facilities of its kind in the region.

Doha's only spa, also certain to impress, has two swimming pools, Jacuzzi, indoor tennis courts, state-of-the art fitness equipment and a host of recreational opportunities.

Visitors will be cosseted by lavender fragrance and "ancient Arab secrets for health, wellness and beauty". Seven treatment rooms will offer service from Oriental massage to hydrotherapy.

Men and women will be confined to their own separate areas offering plunge pool with whirlpool, steam and sauna. The women's section has a beauty salon and the men's a barber salon.

Doha's conference and special events facilities will be extended by more than 21,528 sq ft of meeting and function space that The Ritz Carlton is making available. These cover two ballrooms, six individual meeting rooms, a dedicated teleconferencing room and an extensive outdoors function area.

Beachfront activities on offer are sailing, deep-sea fishing and water sports. Guests are promised privileges at the adjacent world-class Doha Gold Club.

"The opportunity to come to Doha was a unique challenge to not just open a dynamic new property but to also work hand-in-hand with the State of Qatar to develop and establish an exciting new resort destination in the Arabian Gulf," said Sheaffer. "Given the amenities that The Ritz Carlton Doha will offer ... there are few properties in the region that offer a greater selection of facilities for the discerning luxury resort guest.

"We intend to become a benchmark for Middle Eastern hospitality that others will seek to emulate for many years to come."