As summer officially arrives, FACT’s Homara Choudhary spends an afternoon in the sun at Qatar’s first international hotel.

An al fresco lunch on the beach at Doha’s first five-star luxury hotel sounded like the idyllic way to end an extremely gruelling week. The magnificent Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel is nestled in the heart of the city and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Reportedly costing $100 million to build, it was designed by the famous American architect C.Y. Lee, of William L. Pereira Associates, and was built in 1982 under the orders of the then ruler, HH the Amir, Shaikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani. It hosted its first GCC summit the following year.

Constructed on 200,000sq/m, its unusual pyramid design made it the first iconic landmark of Doha. Built on the outskirts of the city, it is a testament to Qatar’s rapid expansion that it now lies in the centre of the metropolis.

As you enter this magnificent five-star masterpiece, you immediately relax as you’re greeted by the warm welcoming staff who are happy to walk you through the opulent maze which is regularly visited by world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities from around the globe.

Having a beach pass for the resort, I couldn’t wait to soak up the sun and sink my toes into the soft sand but first came lunch at the Pool Café. Situated beside the large outdoor pool area and within walking distance to the beach, the café is surrounded by a relaxed oasis of greenery and has both indoor and outdoor seating for guests.

Walking into the beautifully manicured gardens, I felt as if we had discovered a secret paradise. There was a shaded children’s pool and an infinity Jacuzzi overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Sun loungers were dotted along the golden beach. An array of fixed and movable cabanas overlooked the coast lining the lush verdant promontory, providing little oases of calm, guests quietly chatting, laughing and soaking up the gentle vibes. A giant Insta-worthy swing is at one end, waiting for pictures to be taken of both it and the picturesque view. A true Doha moment.

Quiet music played through hidden speakers. The treelined path narrows to a point where a secluded seating area is found at its very tip. Surrounded by the gentle waves this is a serene space that can be turned into a magical dining area upon request.

We were spoiled for choice with so many ‘escape pods’ to choose from. The organic and eclectic mix of furnishings provided a sea of calm. We opted to have our food in one of the many stylish cabanas by the beach.

The menu, like the scenery, was equally appetising and full of old family favourites – I could have eaten everything. For the health conscious the menu helpfully has a calorie count next to each dish. There was something for everyone, including a grilled US Ribeye, Fish and Chips, a variety of pizzas and burgers but also plenty of healthy options, including four different types of salads, pan-seared salmon and Shish Taouk. There’s even an all-day breakfast menu if you’re not in the mood for a full-on lunch.

Nicolas Gomes has been Head Chef at the Sheraton for more than a decade and was kind enough to come over to talk through the menu with us. He recommended the signature Seafood Paella cooked with soft traditional Spanish rice. It arrived on a cast iron hot plate. Infused with giant prawns, mussels and succulent calamari it was cooked to perfection with just enough seasoning to melt the taste buds.

Continuing the seafood theme, the salmon poke bowl was equally delicious. It was easy to see why it was a popular choice, it was grilled to perfection and arrived with soft white rice, avocados, cherry tomatoes and nori. It was filling and nutritious.

The standout dish for me was the Fish and Chips. Difficult to get right in the region, the batter was crispy and not too heavy, the delicate fish literally fell off my folk. The chips were chunky and delicious. The tartare sauce was beautifully balanced and complemented this classic UK dish perfectly.

The ‘Garden Fresh’ stone oven pizza arrived next. It was light and tasty with cherry tomatoes, rocca and a generous portion of parmesan shavings, also the ideal size for sharing. Just when I thought I couldn’t squeeze anything more into my swimming costume, the Sheraton Grand Doha (SGD) Burrito Wrap arrived with fries. Hot and toasted it was packed with juicy chicken, mouth-watering avocado and cheddar with a little hint of aioli.

The menu was also bursting with a variety of refreshments, from milkshakes, to tantalising mocktails and some traditional cocktails too, including Long Island iced teas and the classic Italian orange spritz. A selection of teas, coffees and soft drinks was also available.

We decided to work off our delicious lunch with a swim in the clear blue sea. The water was cool and refreshing despite the afternoon heat. The soft golden sand is raked twice a day and glistened in the sun as children made sand castles.

The beach had something for everyone; sun loungers for those wanting to top up their tans as well as stylish cabanas for families wanting to spend an afternoon by the sea. There are also coffee tables and a relaxed seating area for those wanting to simply soak up the peaceful atmosphere.

The hotel’s Executive Manager, Staris Latkas described how this iconic landmark is a: “home away from home for so many people, and has been home to many generations in Qatar, which is why they keep coming back.”

It’s easy to see why. With the pristine beach and the stunning gardens right beside it, it’s a unique and rewarding experience for both visitors and residents.

The holistic resort has had a recent revamp and Staris said they’re planning to host special DJ nights on the weekends for a chilled lounge experience.

A perfect getaway right in the heart of the city. ✤