FACT’s Muhammad Asad Ullah escapes to experience the InterContinental Doha leaving the bustle of the city behind; unwinding, sipping mocktails by the beach and pool…

With international travel restrictions in place because of Covid-19, one of the surprise blessings of the last year has been a renewed appreciation for the best weekend breaks in Doha.

Trading holidays in a far-flung destination for escapes closer to home seems increasingly like a win-win. It’s the sheer tranquility one looks for. Fortunately, Qatar offers sumptuous destination hotels, which are a delight to visit in any season, and InterContinental Doha is among the best.

Set on Doha’s longest private beach and snuggled in lush green gardens, InterContinental Doha features 14 restaurants, 375 rooms, and a range of recreational facilities, including a free-form swimming pool, spa, tennis courts, gym and even a studio for fitness classes.

As the blazing sun takes over Qatar, with August and September being the hottest months of the year, I book myself a Luxury Suite for a cool staycation by the waters.

I walk into an open lobby that recently made it to the Forbes list of 32 stunning hotel lobbies. Whimsically refurbished in 2019, a crystal chandelier reflects natural sunlight against beige and navy tones — muted pastels add to a space that is expansive on a grand scale.

The swift check-in, even when the hotel is almost full, has to be a highlight, because it is literally so convenient and hassle-free.

At this point, as soon as I am handed the key to my suite, all I can think of is changing into my shorts and heading to the sandy beach right away. However, as I enter my Luxury Suite on the eighth floor, I realise the thought of heading out from this space instantly needs to be put on hold.

The contemporary, modern suite, much to my surprise, is lavishly spacious and at my disposal for the entire weekend; naturally, it seems like the right thing to absorb the place completely before actually looking for other amenities at the hotel. Warm lighting, shades of beige, in-room workstation, a dining room big enough to fit two families, a lounge to invite some friends over, a private balcony, to look out over the lush blue waters and the tall skyline of Doha, a separate kitchenette installed with coffee/tea machine, a bed that simply hugs your body as you sink into oblivion, and a restroom with a modern, solid-base, freestanding tub, which is great for relaxation with a luxurious spa feel — in short, the suite’s actually a cute apartment that offers the luxury of just staying in.

It’s cosy and filled with sweet details, including the chocolate boxes and a pastry for a warm welcome, placed on the dining table. My favourite is however the in-room Bluetooth speaker, because I can move all I want to my favourite sound tracks.

So, now I get my robe on, put my feet up in the comfortable cotton slippers as my bath tub fills with bubbles and I get my recent read out of my luggage because it’s a break, at last! I am refreshed, and the sun’s almost set as I head for the evening drinks and canapes at The Club Lounge while waiting for my friend to join me for dinner later. The facility is complimentary and exclusively available to guests staying in one of the Club Rooms or Suites and, I must say, it is worth it. It has a calm ambience, dim lighting and lives and breathes an absolute vibe of fine dining. It’s a perfect lounge for some family bonding.

For dinner, I opt for Mykonos, a restaurant by the poolside offering some exquisite Greek and Mediterranean delicacies that has also introduced some new authentic dishes to the menu. With so many people vacationing in Greece on my social media, I thought why not also be part of the experience, whilst sitting right here in Doha? Everyone who’s into Greek food will recommend Mykonos to you in Doha and here’s why: it’s fantastic.

Manitaropita (baked mushroom pie with phyllo pastry) and Htapodi Sharas (grilled octopus tentacles marinated with olive oil, lemon and balsamic vinegar) are truly great starters to begin the meal. The octopus is so delectable and lightly seasoned that, for someone who’s not a huge seafood fan, it is a tasty palate-changing moment. One can figure how the octopus was cooked slowly to make it really tender and grilled to give it charred crispy edges.

As I sip my sparkling water with lemon waiting for my mains: Gyros Kotopoulo (rotisserie chicken shredded with handcut fries, pita bread, grilled onions, tomatoes and tzatziki dip) and Yuvetsi Kotopoulo (chicken stew with orzo pasta, tomato sauce and feta cheese), I notice the detailing of the blue and white interior, the beautiful wicker lighting and the open bar that’s quintessentially true to the strand the restaurant follows.

Not only is the flavour off the charts of Gyros Kotopoulo, it is also such a healthy dish. The well marinated baked chicken with onions and peppers along with Greek herbs and spices does it for me — it’s all crunchy and nicely coloured.

Sprinkled with the parsley and cheese, the Yuvetsi Kotopoulo is tender. All the flavours of youvetsi in a lighter form — with meaty tender chicken complemented by the flavours of cinnamon and bay and a sauce that effortlessly steals the show.

For desserts, Mykonos offers lip-smacking dishes like Galaktobureko and Sokolatopita, which is also a firm favourite with returning guests.

I call it a night post dinner, and head back to my room looking forward to the next morning.

The comfort of bed makes me late for breakfast but morning carbs are essential for me and so I begin my day with a delectable breakfast at the Club Lounge: carrot juice and full English breakfast including omelette with cheese, onions and chillis with baked beans and chicken sausages. A kind of hearty breakfast that I’d have in the comfort of my home.

With looking forward to the evening at the pool and beach and trillions of selfies and pictures being the order of the day, I head to the InterContinental Spa for my Hollywood Facial by Intraceuticals. A favourite of Hollywood A-listers, it is a treatment with a serum specifically formulated to be infused deep into the skin with oxygen under pressure.

The spa is calm with a delicate aroma, it’s breezing lavender. The Opulent Infusion treatment I opt for is super concentrated with vitamin C and natural plant extracts that safely and naturally treat the cause of uneven skin tone while revealing newfound luminosity and radiance. Post the 60-minute session, my skin looks deeply hydrated, balanced and glowing with health. A ‘must try’ especially during these hot summer times, definitely something our skin longs for.

The pool and beach are there to give you just the right dosage of summer warmth and Vitamin D. After the spa, I spend the entire evening swimming at the beach and pool and sitting under the umbrella reading Are You Enjoying before heading back to my room to change and catch up on the evening offerings again at the Club Lounge. I call it a night, snuggled in my bed with laptop on running the new episode of Gossip Girl reboot, a franchise I have been profoundly fond of.

Signing off from my staycation at InterContinental Doha, everyone can agree on one thing, tans fade, highlights go dark and we all get sick of sand in our shoes. But the end of a staycation is the beginning of a new season, mentally and physically! ✤