There have been a lot of changes since I was last passing through Hamid International Airport, partly because of the constant expansion of the airport, and partly because of the FIFA World Cup.
There’s a whole new ‘Garden’ at the airport which is called the Orchard, and you can read about it here
As part of that, there are a number of new lounges. These are in addition to the lounges that opened earlier this year.
These lounges were not yet open when I was there on Monday.
What we have been told about these three new lounges (all of which are in the ‘North’ of the terminal) is the following:
- ‘The Gold and Platinum Lounge – North Plaza’ – in size this is 780 sqm and seats approximately 107 people (seems fairly specific!). Facilities within the lounges will include shower facilities, meeting rooms, quiet areas and family rooms.
- ‘The Silver Lounge- North’ is 776 sqm and seats approximately 107 guests (same number, again).
- ‘The Al Mourjan Business Lounge – North’.
As far as the Al Mourjan lounge in the south of the terminal is concerned, this is the one that many readers will have visited, and here is a video I made a few years ago.
Where is it?
Back to the new lounge. Once you are through security take the escalators up to the shuttle train which runs the length of the interior of the airport, and head for the C gates.
You can also walk if you want some exercise or want to go shopping, though it’s mostly gates along the way – the main shopping areas are at either end.
If you take the shuttle, around 90 seconds later you will disembark and this will be your view.
The sculpture is by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and is called Cosmos.
It is “a large and intricate globe installation that symbolises the path of travelers around the world taking inspiration from the oldest Islamic astrolabe that can be found in the Museum of Islamic Art’s collection.”
On the other side of where you are standing, past the Cosmos installation and on the balcony is the Al Mourjan Business Lounge – North. It’s good to keep that in mind, because once you go down the escalators there are signs to all sorts of lounges, and it can get confusing.
That said, I would definitely make a slight detour while you are there to look at the new Orchard.
(As an aside, there is a rumour of even more lounges down here, including, an Al Mourjan Garden Lounge which will overlook the Orchard – or is it Garden? – and will be 7,390 sqm in size seating over 700 guests, and include additional dining options and business centres.)
If the design reminds you of Singapore Changi, then that’s either because Hamad copied Changi, or Changi copied Hamad, or technology dictates that if you are going to have a lot of indoor plants, you need a design like this. I’m not sure there’s much gain from deciding which is the correct version, but I am sure it’s a great new space surrounded by restaurants and high-end shops.
The Orchard is an indoor tropical garden with water feature, shops and food and beverage outlets, all under a grid shell roof. In total it is 6,000 sqm with a 575 sqm water feature. There are over 300 trees and over 25,000 plants and shrubs sourced from sustainable forests from around the world, including Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, with 30 different species of trees and around 90 different species of plants. Yes, that was from the press release, I did not count them, but it is very impressive.
The design allows the trees and plants to acclimatise to being inside and continue to grow and thrive in the airport. The trees vary in size and shape, the tallest tree reaches up to 16 metres.
At present, I believe this whole area is called ‘The Orchard’, but I might be wrong, because there are references to the ‘Garden’ not only with regards to the new ‘Al Mourjan Business Lounge – the Garden’, but also a new 100-room hotel which has opened down here, similarly referring to a garden (it is called the Oryx Garden Hotel. I’ll correct it when I find out for sure.
The area has walkways on at least two levels, and people were relaxing on the lower ground level between flights.
Anyway, back to the lounge.
By now I was completely disorientated, not helped by having had only two hours sleep, but eventually I found the way to the lounge, and discovered this queue.
I don’t know if this was because there had suddenly been a rush of people, or they were short-staffed, but after a few minutes a member of staff came along, looked at my business class ticket, and took me to the front of the queue where it as scanned. I I think it might be the case that some of these people were hoping to pay for admission, or perhaps they were on Qatar’s ‘business lite’ fares, or perhaps have status with other airlines and were waiting to get in since the other alternatives at this end of the terminal had yet to open.
I went up the escalator, and walked past a crowded reception and was guided into the lounge.
My first impressions were that this lounge is different from the larger Al Mourjan in the south of the terminal, but mainly because of its ‘open’ design, with the roof of the terminal high above, and a balcony running along one side looking back at the Cosmos sculpture.
When you first enter, if you look to your right, this is the view (the washrooms and showers are to the right of this picture).
Looking forward, this is the view, with one of the twin buffets to the left.
While this is the view looking back at the entrance.
If you walk to the edge of the lounge and look out into the atrium, you’ll see where you have just come from – the shuttle and the rest of the airport. You can see in this picture how the lounge curves round, so imagine you are standing to the left hand side of the lounge and most of it is stretching to the right.
I only had around 30 minutes and it was 0615, so I’m afraid I didn’t look at the alcohol situation, though I have read that Champagne is available, and I saw a bottle of Chateau Batailley as well.
Instead I had some cereals, went to the closest self-serve buffet station, and got some breakfast including cereals followed by beans, eggs, mushrooms and some Arabic bread.
I was careful taking pictures because there were some children running around and other people sitting and eating.
I sat here at one of the long tables but most people were sitting in the comfortable chairs and drinking coffee or having a glass of fizz.
After having a walk round I went into the washrooms and took a couple of pictures of the showers.
In the existing Al Mourjan lounge in the south of the terminal it can be difficult to get a shower, but at this time in the morning these were not being used.
This lounge is a welcome addition to cope with the extra passengers passing through the airport. It will be interesting to see the third Al Mourjan Lounge – the one called Garden and how it interacts with this one (and which people think is best ‘ preferable).
If you have time, you might prefer to stick with the lounge in the south of the terminal, or do a tour which could also encompass the new lounges yet to open. This lounge doesn’t have the same kind of ‘wow’ factor of the larger south lounge, but is a welcome addition, particularly if it is closer to your gate.