Latest posts by Dermot Davitt (see all)
- A celebration of speed and sumptuous Qatari hospitality - October 8, 2023
- ‘Pura vida’ – A captivating Costa Rican experience - March 23, 2023
- Rum, food and music – a cultural tour of discovery in Jamaica - March 1, 2023
“We’re only just getting started.” That was the reaction of Hamad International Airport (HIA) Chief Operating Officer Engr. Badr Al Meer as Qatar Duty Free scooped the Frontier Airport Retailer of the Year award last Wednesday night in Cannes.
The words were a reference to the continued high ambition associated with the development of retail, dining and services at HIA, but also neatly sum up the philosophy at Qatar Airways Group, and the wider agenda to promote Qatar through state agencies and their partners.
Sport is at the heart of that drive. Having hosted the FIFA World Cup in football in 2022, the momentum in the Gulf state continues with a series of high-profile events this year, led by this weekend’s Formula 1 Qatar Airways Qatar Grand Prix.
We are on the ground in the excellent company of Qatar Duty Free – led by Senior Vice President Thabet Musleh – over three days of qualifying (Friday), the Sprint Race (Saturday) and Grand Prix (Sunday), and even before the big day dawns, it has been all action.
There are echoes of last year’s football extravaganza everywhere, from the themed carriage handles in the Doha Metro to the gleaming lines of the Lusail Stadium which you pass on the road to the Lusail International Circuit race track, home to F1 from 6-8 October. In turn, F1 cues abound today, from the signage lighting up the arrivals corridor at HIA to branding at city hotels.
The Paddock Club, where Qatar Airways, HIA and Qatar Duty Free are welcoming guests, has been abuzz throughout. Yesterday, famous footballer and style icon David Beckham paid a visit amid a schedule that sees him planning a big collaboration with QDF, to be announced soon. Brand partners from across the industry are also well represented, with more due on race day today.
The first-rate hospitality extended not just to a walk in the pit lane in between sessions on Saturday, but to a ride right around the circuit on a truck – offering an insider’s view of how the drivers negotiate this tricky circuit.
Not only that, but the second ever Qatar Grand Prix saw a landmark moment too on Saturday – with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crowned F1 World Champion for a third time due to the points he picked up in the Sprint Race, in which he was second to Oscar Piastri.
As any rugby fan will know, this weekend is not just about F1. With the quarter finals a week away, Ireland and Scotland put everything on the line in a make or break game in Paris.
In late night Doha, finding a place to watch the crunch match wasn’t straightforward, but the resourceful Thabet Musleh found a way – with the live feed pumped into a downtown restaurant, accompanied by the most magnificent Qatari food for guests.
Thankfully for this viewer, Ireland’s hot start and strong performance meant I could enjoy the food and the friendship from a relatively early stage rather than fret about the outcome too much.
I also had the reassuring presence of two-time Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand Sonny Bill Williams, who had no doubts about who would win. Although, a little worryingly, he seems just as sure that New Zealand will beat Ireland in next week’s quarter final. Roll on Saturday.