Review: Al-Maha Transit Lounge, Hamad International Airport, Doha (DOH)

Introduction: Balkans Trip Report
Review: Al-Maha Transit Lounge, Hamad International Airport, Doha (DOH)
Review: Belgrade Nikola Tesla International Airport (BEG) to Belgrade City Center
Review: Old Town Belgrade Airbnb Loft
Review: Belgrade Runaround
Review: Belgrade Walking Tours 1
Review: Belgrade Walking Tours 2
Review: Belgrade to Sarajevo; Door-to-Door Minibus Shuttle
Review: Embassies Row Sarajevo Airbnb Apartment
Review: Sarajevo Runaround
Review: Sarajevo Walking Tours
Review: Sarajevo Walkaround
Review: Sarajevo to Zagreb; EuroLine Bus
Review: Old Town Zagreb Airbnb Room
Review: Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Review: Advent in Zagreb
Review: Zagreb Walking Tours
Review: Zagreb to Budapest; Croatia Tours Bus
Review: Budapest Andrassay Street Airbnb Room
Review: Budapest Walkaround
Review: Budapest Bike Tours
Review: Budapest City Center to Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
Review: Platinum Lounge, Terminal 2B, Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
Review: Doha, Qatar Drivearound

ICN-DOH: QR 859
DOH-BEG: QR 202
Transit Duration: 1hr 30min
Gate: C11

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Flying into DOH

Last time I was at Doha International Airport was 2009, at the time when the Old Doha Airport was operating as Qatar’s main commercial international airport. There weren’t much to do and I semi-fondly remember rows of food court-like seatings filled with awry looking transit passengers. Wifi was spotty and facilities were nothing to write home.

At the time I spent majority of the 8-hour transit at Oryx Lounge which provided a transit experience as different as day and night.

In 2014 Hamad International Airport (HIA) replaced the Old Doha Airport as Qatar’s main airport. Keeping up with modern days HIA even have their own Instagram account. To accommodate millennials they even went one step further and made it easy for you to apply hashtags.

I’ll let this photo speaks: #BestAirportInTheMiddleEast

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HIA Instagram handle: @HIAQatar

Without doubt the crown jewel of HIA must go to the $6.8M, 23-ft yellow teddy bear sculpture.

Official title: “Untitled (Lamp/Bear)” or in other words, ridiculously huge and outrageously expensive teddy bear in the grand foyer center stage. According to reports a Qatari Royal Family member acquired the sculpture in an auction and decided to display it in the airport.

Getting There

As ostentatious as that sounds, the teddy bear lamp is also used by HIA as focal point in providing directions. Very practical. 😉

For example, here’s the official direction to Al-Maha Transit Lounge:

Airside – take the lift on the right of the Teddy Bear Area to the 2nd Floor, and the lounge is opposite the lifts.

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Direction to Al-Maha Lounge From Duty Free Concourse

The said lift is hidden and easy to miss. It’s also worth to point out that taking the lift is the only way to get to the lounge. Yup, no stairs or escalators. I wonder how’d they manage in case of fire.

Once I found the lift I made my way up to second floor. There, a welcome desk with two associates were waiting.

On your right you will find Oryx Lounge whereas on your left is Al-Maha Lounge. Although I saw no visible signage providing information on lounge access, the associates were happy to accommodate.

Al-Maha Lounge Access

  • Priority Pass (PP) Card Holders
  • Diners International Club Card Holders
  • Walk-in customers for a fee of QAR 200

After presenting PP card and boarding pass, the associates scanned my pass which is a standard procedure. Then, she directed me to my left where Al-Maha Lounge is located.

The associate also reminded me that no boarding announcements are made in the lounge, and that my flight is boarding soon in 10 minutes(!!!).

Although I only managed to visit the lounge very briefly during the first time, I returned again for second time while in transit for ICN bound flight. I will combine both experience in this single post to avoid repetitive contents.

On both occasions when I was there – early mornings of 7AM and 2AM – the lounge was 95% occupied and empty seats are hard to come by. The associate gently reminded me that in case I didn’t manage to secure any seat she’ll be happy to retract the PP card transaction.

Lucky for her after long-haul flight I’ll sit on the floor if I have to.

Floor Plan

Upon entering there’s an entryway with seats placement along the way and newspaper/magazine stand. After passing the newspaper/magazine stand, to the right is entryway to bathroom and showers. To the left is the smoking room, business center, and family room.

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Al-Maha Lounge

Because these rooms were occupied I couldn’t photograph it. The business center is equipped with two desktops and printers, and an empty spot with space to work on your own computer.

In the family room there were one sofa that could seat three adults, and three individual chairs. The family room is also equipped with TV that display the departure schedule, which can be switched to TV using remote control. Very useful since the room is partitioned off from the rest of lounge area.

Having been to Middle East countries the concept of family room is not unusual especially at establishments like restaurants. In a more conservative country like Saudi Arabia, the seatings are are divided into gents and family. Because women are not allowed to be outside without male family escorts, family section is meant for women, kids, and the immediate family members. Whereas gents section are for male, married or single.

However at this lounge I could see that the family room can be used without restriction. I shared the family room with an Emirati couple and elder Arab woman.

Bathroom and Shower

The bathroom contained two stalls and one shower.

If there’s one beef about this lounge it is that there are no queue system for shower.

When prompted about shower, one associate simply pointed the direction to me and did not offer to check the availability or check back with me if the shower is occupied. Whereas at PP Plaza Premium Lounge in Taipei, Taiwan and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia such service is offered promptly. This amenity is highly appreciated by guests with short layover that intend to shower (me particularly).

Food

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Al-Maha Lounge

At the end of the entryway, turning right, is the dining area. There, you can find the food spread and drinks bar. At this point I become aware of the lounge’s high ceiling, which helps add a sense of spaciousness and breathing space amidst the crowd.

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Al-Maha Lounge

The cold food selection has salad bar which consists of hummus, tabbouleh, grilled vegetables, and pita bread to accompany the mezze. On the pastry side there were buns, croissants and pies. For drinks there are two coffee machine, refrigerator for bottled water, juice, milk, and sparkling water.

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Al-Maha Lounge

On second visit I had 30 minutes before boarding. This time I was able to sit down and enjoy the hummus. For a lounge food it was satisfactory. I LOVE hummus and veggies.

Wifi

I used the HIA wifi which was stable and fast. There was a dedicated lounge wifi.

The Takeaway

Al Maha Lounge is on the high spectrum of occupancy. Even in the early mornings hour between 12 midnight to 9AM, the lounge is crowded. But this is understandable given its modest size and that it admits diverse set of passengers.

Despite the crowd I didn’t have problem getting a seat because guests come and go within short period of time.

If you’re looking for privacy, peace, and quiet..  good luck.

For shower you have to be proactive to find out about the availability. It’s a tough luck trying to shower if your transit is less than 1 hour.

I wish Al Maha Lounge can implement shower queue system which I know the time-crunched travelers would appreciate.

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