There are some truly incredible First Class Lounges in the world. Al Safwa First Class by Qatar Airways is surly amongst them. Inspired by Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, it is uniquely large and bold. So large in-fact it drew criticism from some for creating a huge soulless vacuum of space.
First time I ever visited this lounge in 2019, it was so short I did not have a chance to fully see it for what it is. For a late spring trip this year, I had plenty time to explore it after arriving in Doha just before midnight and my next flight being 10am in the morning. So is it the First Class oasis Qatar claims it to be?
Access & Location
The lounge is located on the third floor of Hamad International Airport departures where there are clear sign-posts pointing to the escalators and elevators that can take you up here. You can enter and exit from 2 different sides of the lounge.
Naturally, this being designed as the top tier exclusive lounge, entry is closely guarded. You are eligible to access with open invitation if you are flying Qatar Airways First Class, hold Qatar’s Privilege Club Platinum status and flying Qatar Business with 2 guests with you.
There are options for other business class passengers can pay to enter, but this can still be restricted by Qatar if it decides not to exceed specific capacity limits to maintain the ambience.
As you enter, there is a dedicated First Class Duty Free Shop, I intended to have a quick browse on way out but then forget.
Al Safwa First Class By Qatar The Space & Design
As soon as you enter, you will be awestruck by the sheer size and scale of the place. We are talking quadrable height ceilings
There is two additional receptions manned by several staff to cater to you every needs..
No sooner had I entered, I had 2 staff come out to ask what I would like to do tonight and the other one invited my to store my carry on suitcase in the lockers.
The high sandstone and marble detailed walls and black ceiling gives off a sense of simplicity and calm. You may indeed feel like you are at a museum..
The centre piece is the grand water fountain..
There is something so soothing to be sat anywhere near this clear flowing lava like feature
There are several seating areas from plush leather seats to recliner loungers..
Some with more privacy..
Given the scale of the space, it feels almost sparsely furnished!
There are many dedicated zones or spaces for specific needs such as a fully equipped business centre
Al Safwa First Class Spa
There is a Spa and quieter chill area. When I went to check out the Spa, unfortunately it was fully booked and in use so could not take any pictures of the various facilities there.
The QSpa features 9 treatment rooms, jacuzzi and another relaxing room.
Then you have what are essentially private living rooms for families or groups much like its impressive Al Mourjan Business lounge
There is an open plan central bar area when you head towards the restaurant..
Al Safwa First Class By Qatar Art Gallery
Being the defining theme of the whole lounge, the gallery touches are quite impressive. Immediately on right as you enter past the main check-in area, there is a huge section of the wall dedicated as yet another waterfall, this time with real water flowing down this wall..
Then you have various pieces on loan from the Islamic Art museum itself..
During daylight hours you get light flooding through from from both sides of the lounge and illuminating the art. However I think I very much prefer the night time vibe of it..
Al Safwa First Class Dining
Off course being a First Class lounge, there is a dedicated a la carte restaurant serving fine Arabic and international cuisine. The 250 seat capacity restaurant is as large as some other entire lounges.
What is rather odd is I am not sure Qatar Airways even allows more than 250 guests into this lounge at any one time, much less than 100% of them would choose to dine at the exact same time!
You will certainly not have to wait for a table to be seated here, in stark contract to the likes of Lufthansa First Class terminal, British Airways Concorde Lounge or even Cathay Pier/Wing First Class.
Now I should add, as I arrived way past dinner time, I was the only one in the whole dining area! And were the dedicated waiters happy to see a guest!
I was immediately asked where id like to sit and it wasnt a decision to make, I just sat at one of the closest tables to be..
Much to the chef and waiters disappointment, I was not exactly hungry after having a very nice dinner onboard my Qatar Airways flight in!
So I decided to start with some drinks and soup..
Then I ordered some snacks..
Even though I was not hungry, the food was incredibly delicious. The waiters even tried to tempt me to order something of the mains but that would not have gone down well at all!
Al Safwa First Class Private Bedrooms
The lounge has several private hotel like bedrooms with your own bathroom. With my visit being almost entirely a night visit, that is what I planned to do, and which is why I skipped the duty free shop so I can make sure to book a room. All rooms are allocated on a first come first serve basis.
Unfortunately at 12.15 am, I was informed all private rooms were taken and the next available room would be in 5 hours, unless someone leaves early.
With the only other option of sleeping inside the lounge being in the designated “Quite Area” with only reclining loungers, I decided to check hotel options and ended up spending a very expensive 6 hours in The Oryx Hotel inside the terminal.
In the morning I came back to the lounge 90 minutes before my next flight but I was not hungry to have any breakfast.
Despite Qatar Airways true First Class footprint shrinking to a tiny proportion of its fleet, only on A380s and the leased 777s from Cathay Pacific, it is impressive that Qatar has maintained the lounge as a true First Class offering!
I personally like the décor and architecture and see the resemblance to a museum as a positively quirky thing ! The catering and service with the amount of staff to guest ration are truly first class. It is unfortunate that there are only so few Private rooms. For such a large space, I feel they could have easily had double this!
One area where this lounge falls short for a First Class lounge is there is no complementary spa treatments, all are paid options. Nevertheless, I would say this is one of the world’s best First Class Lounges, mostly likely in top 5.