ESCAPE EVERYDAY LIFE
Lindsey Steenkemp heads south to soak up some island style at Hilton Salwa Beach Resort & Villas.
Located on 3 million square metres of prime coastline in the tranquil southwest corner of Qatar, and less than 100km from Doha, the magnificent Salwa Beach Resort is a place where individuals, couples and families can escape to without the incumbent hassles of customs queues, baggage carousels and slightly dodgy taxi drivers.
I drive for a manageable 90 minutes to transport myself from the cityscape of Doha to an island paradise, far removed from any urban pressures and stresses.
On arrival I valet my car and begin a general guided tour with my host, Temitope. We take a golf cart ride around the perimeter of the resort to soak up the geography and expanse of the place. Spread out across 3.5km of picturesque private beaches, the resort is designed on a grand scale with an emphasis on space, beauty and luxury.
As we head from South Bay towards the North Bay area, taking in the views, we pass the stylish Arabian Village where the secluded villas have a distinctive Arabic-inspired look and feel. Temi tells me there are various self-catering options at the resort from one- and two-bedroom apartments and duplexes, with their own courtyards, to these much larger two- and threebedroom luxury villas with outdoor swimming pools set among beautifully landscaped gardens. These ultra-stylish spaces serve as veritable homes from home, meaning one can occupy a private oasis with all the regular comforts and conveniences. It’s a beachside slice of perfection that people can book as a shortterm or long-term stay option.
On our tour we stop a few times, firstly at the Marina. With its 56-berth capacity and white sands, it feels a little like a Caribbean bay. I’m also impressed with the Salwa Sports Academy. The football field looks fantastic and the beautiful indoor pool has a luxurious quality to it.
Once the scouting tour is over, I check in at the main reception which is welcoming and friendly and uses a digital process to ensure safety in pandemic times.
Before anything else, I feel the need to unwind, and head straight to the pool area on South Bay to take a swim, before reclining indulgently on a sun lounger. I have a chat with a fellow South African over lunch – the very friendly lifeguard manager Darren – who tells me how much he loves being at the resort. The aforementioned lunch is savoured at the South Bay restaurant and I try the confit duck leg salad with delicious mozzarella stick accoutrements. The salad comprises burnt coconut, charred pineapple and honey soy cashews. My meal is complemented by a cool zero cocktail of pineapple juice, watermelon juice, green apple syrup, lime and mint. The alcohol-free drink is fresh, light and ice cold, served in a hip brass pineapple cup. I picture myself lounging here for hours with festive music emanating from the pool bar area while sipping on sundowners, and with the beach only a brief walk away.
I take a quiet walk alone on the beach before heading to my room to prepare for the evening. The accommodation is beautifully detailed with handcrafted furniture that feels modern yet simultaneously traditional. Leading from the king-sized bed, a natural wood door opens onto a magnificent en-suite bathroom with a beautiful bathtub backdropped by shimmering Arabic tiles in an arched frame. It feels as if I have my own private spa adjoining my bedroom. The elegantly subtle design of the room accommodates all the typical mod cons and amenities such as complimentary WiFi, mini bar and an espresso machine. I stand on my private terrace, contemplating the beach view. There are 246 deluxe rooms and suites at the Hilton property with these kinds of views.
Dinner that night turns out to be a treat. I eat at Dante Cucina Italiana, a restaurant with a beautiful modern interior that houses big neon light designs on a brick-face wall. My feast starts with a light and delightful offering of watermelon carpaccio, goats cheese mousse and Balsamic Caviar. It’s stylish but incredibly simple and refreshing. I then dive into a tantalising and flavourfilled Rocket and Burrata Salad that is dramatically presented as my host rolls me some of the signature steaming bread and cuts it at the table so I can fully appreciate its freshly-baked status. A pleasant surprise awaits as I delightedly try what, for me, is a first, the Ascolane Olives or as it reads on the menu, Cestino Di Olive Ascolane. I am an avid olive lover, so this truly moreish snack is a magnificent discovery. My hosts top off the evening with a decadent Torts Caprese (Italian Brownie).
After a wonderfully restful night’s sleep, I awake refreshed by the soothing ocean air and head to breakfast at the Souk Kitchen, which delivers amazingly. Everything is incredibly fresh with a huge variety of options. Best of all, I have a spectacular ocean view while devouring my extensive international breakfast spread. I thoroughly enjoy the breakfast experience and feel fully satisfied and ready to take on a full day at the water park.
A significant feature of Hilton Salwa Beach Resort is the Desert Falls Water and Adventure Park. One of the largest theme parks in the Middle East, when in full operation the park will feature 28 rides and attractions including multiple slides as well as surfing dunes, a torrent river ride and a lazy river experience. In addition, the park incorporates cliff jumping, diving and themed go karting. I meet my friend Jackie and her two little kids to experience the park from a child’s perspective. I find myself loving how most of it is built around and within a network of fabricated caves, so I don’t have to be in the sun all the time. The Whizzard Mat Racer makes a big splash with me. I love the thrill of a heading down the slide face-first on a water mat. Guests can challenge a friend or a family member to compete in a face-off race, with the winner making it to the water first. The King Cobra themed ride is definitely the star of the show, though. This is an encapsulated twin-tube, adrenalin-filled ride that takes you to the mouth of a giant cobra. I also hear rave reviews of the Nimr Laser Tag experience but unfortunately, I don’t have time to try it on this visit.
As the end of my spectacular, but sadly short, staycation approaches, I spend time at Nesma Lobby Lounge, a grand and constantly transforming space, to savour the High Tea experience, from a crafted afternoon tea menu with a Middle Eastern twist. A perfect treat to wrap up an ideal staycation.
I depart Salwa Beach Resort and head back to the bright lights of the city, reflecting on how this staycation made me feel like I was out of Qatar, soaking up the sun on some Mediterranean island and basking in the escapist atmosphere of a different world. I definitely aim to return here to try out all the experiences I missed on my first visit, or to simply take a break from the fast-paced pressures of everyday life.
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