Jewel of the Middle East
The new St. Regis location gives insight into the Middle East’s most appealing diversions and delicacies.
By Keith Loria
The St. Regis Doha, which first opened its doors in Qatar on March 31, 2012, prides itself on representing the St. Regis name by offering bespoke service, opulence and excellence in the Middle East. Home to the fastest-growing economy in the world, Qatar is situated in Western Asia, on top of the world’s largest non-associated gas field, holding 15 percent of the world’s proven gas reserves.
With a gross national product that ranks as one of the highest in Asia, some of the top business deals in the world are conducted in Qatar’s capital city of Doha. The country also offers a potpourri of different cultural and historical sites and the Qatar Tourism Authority has increased its efforts in recent years to highlight the country’s significance in these areas.
The St. Regis Doha is a five-star hotel containing 336 guest rooms, including 70 seductive suites. The hotel is part of the Al Gassar Resort located in the emerging commercial heart of the city, West Bay, adjacent to the Pearl Island and close to the Diplomatic Area.
“The architect Dar Al-Handasah created a building on a grand scale, with subtle strands of Arabic design,” says Tareq Derbas, The St. Regis Doha’s general manager. “The straight lines and sharp edges are combined with innovative finishes that transform traditional architecture into a contemporary backdrop.”
The interior design humanizes the imposing space of the building and turns the hotel into an elegant venue with timeless interiors. The overall design highlights the hotel’s unique location and shows great respect for the building’s architecture.
“The architecture and interior design have incorporated a lot of the local history and traditions,” Derbas says. “You find, for example, wooden panels inspired by traditional ‘mousharabieh’ as separators in the lounges and restaurants, but also wooden arched doorframes and mosaic tiling in the guest rooms.”
A selection of artworks and accessories from local and regional artists gives a real sense of place to the hotel. On the meeting space floor, guests are welcomed by a large mural representing both the new skyline of Doha and the traditional Middle Eastern open-air market Souq Waqif. Guest rooms look out onto the Persian Gulf’s tranquil blue sea, and guests can take advantage of the hotel’s exclusive private beach and discreet oceanfront cabanas.
Out and About
A visit to Qatar can be highlighted by walking through the authentic Souq Waqif, a showpiece of traditional architecture, crafts and folk art; strolling along the bustling Corniche, a waterfront promenade; or viewing the fine artworks on display in the Museum of Islamic Art.
“A must-see in Doha is the traditional Souq Waqif. The souq is particularly buzzing in the evening; it offers visitors a good overview of the traditional Middle Eastern culture and offers a lively environment for a night out,” says Priscila Ochoa, head butler. “The Museum of Islamic art is also very interesting. It is ideally located on the Corniche and adjacent to a beautiful park. Guests can combine a visit to the museum with a stroll along the Corniche and a tour of the Souq.”
The souqs and particularly Souq Waqif are great for local souvenirs and spices. For jewels, the Gold Souq offers plenty of options. There are also a number of modern malls that sell international brands across the city.
Just a step away from the hotel is Katara, a cultural village and a great opportunity for guests to immerse themselves in the local culture and traditions. It is also a lovely place to have a stroll in the evening. For a contrasting experience, guests should visit The Pearl-Qatar, a newly built man-made island, offering high-end shopping, restaurants and lounges.
Nearby, the Aspire Zone, with a design inspired by Venice and its canals, offers some of the finest sports stadia and venues anywhere in the world. Olympic-standard shoppers will be supremely comfortable at the Villagio Mall, the ultimate destination in Qatar for luxury brands, dining and entertainment, also located within the Aspire Zone.
One may also experience a memorable desert safari to Khor Al Adaid, the unique inland sea surrounded by impressive sand dunes.
“This is another must-do,” Ochoa says. “Qatar offers breathtaking landscapes just an hour away from Doha. It is best to explore with a guide that will drive through the dunes and stop for amazing photo opportunities.”
The St. Regis Doha offers 16,000 square meters of luxurious leisure space, including an Olympic-size swimming pool, 10 exclusive poolside cabanas with private Jacuzzis and a private beach.
“I believe the hotel’s presidential suites are very special and unique,” Derbas says. “They are 720 square meters in space, are built on two floors and feature a grand staircase, three bedrooms and extensive views of the [Persian] Gulf, a true gem.”
One amenity that’s unique to St. Regis Doha guests is the butlers provided for the duration of one’s stay, offering beverages, unpacking and packing services and garment pressing.
“From a service standpoint, we are offering the legendary St. Regis butler to all guests staying at the hotel—this is a first in Doha,” Derbas says. “The St. Regis butlers strive to deliver guests with bespoke experiences through customized and anticipatory service.”
In addition to butler service, other in-room amenities include shoe shining, newspapers and a wide-range of complimentary bathroom toiletries. It also offers children’s amenities and facilities such as a pool, a creche (day care) and special menus.
Guests can escape to ultimate indulgence in any of the 22 spa treatment rooms at the hotel’s Remède Spa, which takes its character from the country’s long history of pearl fishing.
“It was actually Qatar’s first industry some years ago and it is today an integral part of the country’s history and culture,” Ochoa says. “Here, at The St. Regis Doha, our Remède Spa has designed indigenous pearl treatments that use pure pearl extracts.”
With 10 eating establishments on its premises, The St. Regis Doha provides guests with the chance to sample contemporary cuisine from all over the world—offering fine dining and California-inspired regional cuisine as well as European, Asian and Arabian epicurean experiences.
“Our 10 venues will offer a very bespoke selection of global cuisines, [including] the casual al fresco dining at our restaurant Oyster Bay, taking in the view of the Gulf complemented with tastes and sounds of the Caribbean,” says Executive Chef Brendan McGowan, who oversees a team of more than 100 culinary staff members and looks after day-to-day operations for all venues as well as private dining and banqueting. “Guests can also enjoy classical French cuisine with a modern twist at Astor Grill, where we will discreetly pay homage to the dining from the Gilded Age, bringing tableside theater back in vogue.”
Vine Restaurant offers a taste of California, utilizing artisan produce from the region while its banquet and conference experience provides guests with the fabulous flavors from the region with modern and exciting presentations. There is also Jazz at Lincoln Center, the first to open outside of the U.S.
“We also have two Gordon Ramsay restaurants—a bistro-style venue and a fine dining restaurant, both headed by Gilles Bosquet, a Michelin-starred chef,” McGowan says. “The concepts have been carefully selected and the teams are dedicated to preparing and presenting quality in a very exciting period in Qatar’s development.”
McGowan has been a five-star chef in the region for close to 14 years and is able to anticipate the requirements and preferences of the guests—both local and abroad—thanks to his deeply rooted connection to the area.
“Our wine selection is the finest in the country with our head sommelier Julian Biddulph investing a lot of time in sourcing and navigating the challenges to ensure a superior collection is available for all our guests,” McGowan says. “Paying special attention to the residents of the region, exciting nonalcoholic mocktails are also a key selling point.”