Finding triumphant evidence of Merriam-Webster’s word of the year at Qatar Duty Free

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

It looks like Christmas, Christmas at the airportThis yearDoors are locked and boltedLet the festivities begin
– Christmas at the airport, Nick Lowe

And so my penultimate flight of the year is underway. I’m just over two hours out of Hong Kong at 33,998 feet above Luang Prabang, Laos en route to Dubai to report on Dubai Duty Free’s 40th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday (20 December).

I have more than a slight feeling of déjà vu, having pretty much flown the same route to Doha last week.

This time at least I am not suffering from pre-flight food poisoning and am instead enjoying a glass of chilled Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse 2021 onboard Emirates EK383 while trying to put a dent in my Matterhorn-like backlog of feature stories.

Farewell for 2023 to pioneer Belgian aviator Charles Van den Born and his Farman bi-plane, a replica of which is suspended from the ceiling at Hong Kong International Airport Terminal 1. The wood and fabric, French-made Farman was the first aircraft to take to the skies in Hong Kong, where it was flown in Sha Tin on 18 March 1911.
My penultimate final call of 2023. Dubai here I come.

I sometimes wish readers could see how I compose so many of my news stories, features, interviews and Blogs, with my laptop crammed (often alongside my meal tray) on my seat table, tapping away throughout the journey, my only inflight entertainment the flight map. I have an awful lot of movies to catch up when finally I declare myself free of duty at last.

I’ve bade a fond farewell to Hong Kong International Airport for 2023 and how very good it is to see the place buzzing with travellers (and travelling shoppers).

As I have noted before, it is very easy to forget that a very short time ago this place resembled a cross between a military hospital and a deserted wild west town where tumbleweed might any moment blow along the walkways. Now it’s almost restored to its full and considerable glory.

Customers queue up to buy Chinese tobacco at Duty Zero by cdf
China Duty Free Group has done a fantastic job with fine wines in its East Hall store, truly somewhere I could get lost on my next point to point trip
And a final selfie for this flying Kiwi with the magical Dior Christmas tree. I wonder how many photos have been taken of this brilliantly Instagrammable activation since it was installed a few weeks back. I counted around 20 in the two minutes I was there.

As you will have likely discovered from my coverage, my brief sojourn to Doha was to visit the latest offering from Qatar Duty Free’s unrelenting innovation production line.

Each time I visit Hamad International Airport I am amazed and enthralled by the sheer ambition, let alone excellence of execution, of what the airport company and Qatar Duty Free are delivering.

The offering in question this time was Souq Al Matar – dubbed with much justification a “groundbreaking twist on traditional Qatari heritage and hospitality”.

Entrancing black and white footage of old Qatar were beamed as if from an old television screen. Alas, I may have been the only person in the room old enough to recognise the device.

Souq Al Matar – matar being the Arabic word for airport – is a traditional Qatari Souq located in Hamad International Airport’s North Node terminal, featuring seven shops and two restaurants. I’ll let my pictures tell the story as best they can but really you have to see it in person to appreciate its scale and sense of provenance.

It’s important to get a bird’s-eye view while reporting
Evocative images of old Doha, including its pearl-diving traditions, adorn the walls
On the Musleh-mobile: Now here’s what you call a driving force in airport retail. About the only thing that can stop (fortunately) Qatar Duty Free Senior Vice President Thabet Musleh is the brake on his buggy.

Which is a neat segue to the fact that American publisher Merriam-Webster recently chose authentic as its word of the year. Consumers are demanding much more of brands and travellers are no different. Provenance matters.

Authentic has a number of meanings, Merriam-Webster points out, including ‘not false or imitation’, a synonym of real and actual; and also ‘true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character’.

Authentic is hard to define and subject to debate, two reasons the publisher says, that send many people to the dictionary.

Perhaps they should simply visit Hamad International Airport instead. ✈

This ranks as one of my all-time favourite airport restaurant openings. Welcome to Basta, a modern Qatari concept serving traditional food with a modern twist inside Souq – Al Matar. 

The menu offers a rich variety of famous dishes from the Khaleeji cuisine, such as Balalit – sweetened thin noodles with saffron and plain omelettes – and the famous Shakshuka. It also includes Majboos and Biryani, well-known main dishes in the Qatari and Khaleeji cuisine. And, yes, that’s my (shared) lunch.

MEMORIES OF QATAR DUTY FREE AND HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

The Orchard by night. Even this great panoramic shot doesn’t quite do justice to a sheer wonder of the airport world

TimeVallée has proven a big success since its late 2023 opening. It includes an airport world-first Watchfinder boutique selling pre-loved watches.
My Kiwi cap can’t disguise me from the hard-working and eagle-eyed TimeVallée store management, Mohamad and Mohamed, who recognised me from my last visit
Nobody stands in between me and my man/It’ s me and Mr. Jones (me and Mr. Jones) – OK, apologies to the late, great Amy Winehouse but I do keep bumping into this fellow from Kiehl’s all around the world. Again, to avoid any confusion, that’ s Mr Bones on the right.
How great to see the sponsor of my Blog, The House of Sōmrus, so well-represented at Qatar Duty Free (it is managed most ably in the channel by Barry Geoghegan’s Duty Free Global). Naturally I helped depletions along a little, this time with a bottle of the delectable Sōmrus Mango.
No visit to Hamad International Airport is complete without a photo of Lamp Bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer
In fact the bright yellow teddy bear has become such an Instagrammable attraction that Qatar Duty Free has introduced Lampbear plush toys. The perfect present for my soon to be one year-old grandson Iwan whom I will see in Wales in a few days time (I hope he is not reading this Blog}.

What a way to cap off my final visit of the year to Doha with an amazing outdoor dinner hosted by Thabet Musleh. The city has an understated majesty and at nighttime it is a breath-taking sight.

Hey, I may not have been well during my visit, but how can you not say goodbye to this thrilling sight without a glass of something celebratory in hand?

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