IATA CODE DOH
QR908 to Sydney, economy class
Though there is no rail connection from central Doha to Hamad International, the airport is easy and affordable to access, mostly due to its location just a 15-minute drive from the city. I've opted for a taxi, which costs about QAR40 ($15). The other choices are to rent a car for your stay in Doha, book a chauffeur-driven limousine to the airport, or take a public bus. All possibilities are straightforward for English speakers. There is only one terminal at Hamad, and luggage trolleys are free and numerous.
Hamad International is only four years old, and everything is still shiny and clean, with plenty of calming, open spaces and modern facilities. The building itself is a thing of beauty, with a broad, undulating roof meant to represent the sand dunes and ocean waves that make up Qatar's borders. An all-glass facade turns the check-in area into a light-filled oasis, and skylights and high ceilings give a similar sense of space to the rest of the terminal. Doha's airport also has a focus on original artworks, with numerous impressive pieces by local and international artists spread throughout.
For my flight to Sydney there is a small queue but it moves quickly. I have checked in online the day before, so it is a case of dropping my bags and heading off to security.
Customs officers and security staff are all polite and efficient, making the process relatively painless. It only takes me about 15 minutes to clear passport control and the scanners.
FOOD AND DRINK
It seems odd that such a modern and well planned airport would have such disappointing food options. There are places to eat at Hamad, of course, a whole raft of restaurants that are designed to sound like global chains, and yet I've never heard of any of them: Camden Food Co, with sandwiches and salads; Coffeeshop Company, a Starbucks-style cafe; Red Mango, serving smoothies and juices; Negroni, which does Italian-style fare. I end up ordering a pasta dish from Negroni and it is seriously average. There is only one restaurant at Hamad serving local Qatari food, Qataf Cafe, which is geared towards high-end dining. There is no dedicated bar, though the Caviar House does serve champagne. Most restaurants are airside, grouped in a food court near the main atrium, so no need to hang around landside.
Foodies might find Hamad International disappointing, but shopaholics will love it. Here you will recognise the international names, even if you can't afford to patronise them. Spread throughout the airport's cool, spacious central atrium, as well as its five concourses, are more than 50 stores that boast pretty much anything you could want to buy at an airport, and plenty you wouldn't. You will see names like Gucci, Boss, Bulgari, Coach, Harrods, Hermes and Mulberry plastered on the walls, as well as the more affordable likes of Samsung, WH Smith, and … actually, that's about it for affordability. Stick to window shopping at Swarovski and Bally.
Hamad mostly functions as a transit hub, given the popularity of Qatar Airways, which means there are plenty of facilities for those with time to kill. There is free Wi-Fi throughout. There are lounges that the general public can pay to enter. There are "rest zones" in concourses A, B and C, with lounge chairs and couches (though the lights are bright, so bring an eye mask). There is also an airside hotel, a spa in concourse C offering massages and nail treatments, and public showers with 10- or 25-minute booking options.
ONE MORE THING
Those with even a passing interest in art will love Hamad, and it is worth taking time out to enjoy the airport's most important pieces. There is The Playground, a series of eight interactive works by American sculptor Tom Otterness; Lamp Bear, a huge, whimsical piece by Swiss artist Urs Fischer; Flying Man, a large figure on a plinth by Iraqi Dia al-Azzawi; and Cosmos, a tangle of golden orbs created by Frenchman Jean-Michel Othoniel.
Though Hamad International's IATA code – DOH – is eerily similar to Homer Simpson's frustrated refrain, this is not an airport you should regret visiting. Doha's hub is slick and modern, with stunning design, plenty of space and air, and great free entertainment. The only disappointment is the food, which is functional at best.
See also: Airport review: A world leader in dining