The power of four: Destination Doha assumes a new dimension

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

Oh, rowan tree! Oh, rowan tree! Thou’lt aye be dear tae me
Entwined thou art wi’ mony ties o’ hame and infancy
Thy leaves were aye the first o’ spring, thy flow’rs the summer pride
There wasnae sic a bonny tree in a’ the countryside
Oh rowan tree
– Oh rowan tree by Lady Nairne as sang by Bill Nighy in ‘Living’

This Blog begins 98 minutes and 798 miles out from Heathrow Airport, 40,334 feet above Sankt Pölten in lower Austria.

London, the UK and family beckon, my first trip back to my home from 1987 to 2020 in over ten months. Far too long.

I’m onboard QR3 out of Hamad International Airport, enjoying the now familiar but no less enjoyable Qatar Airways inflight hospitality. Truly now, I believe, the best in class airline.

I’ve spent the past three days in Doha, mostly dedicated to reporting the inauguration of the Louis Vuitton Lounge by Yannick Alléno at Hamad International Airport, a marvellous celebration of a project that surely sets a new global high in terms of airport hospitality.

I’ve attended many a Grand Opening down the years but this development ranks right up there in both ambition and execution. In fact you have to pinch yourself that you are in an airport, such is the refinement and serenity of the environment and the quality of the food and service offer.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker (right) with Qatar Duty Free’s newly promoted Senior Vice President Thabet Musleh (left) and me. “Every night when I walk through my airport, it gives me a great feeling of pride for my country,” Al Baker told me.
My favourite images of the evening as multi-Michelin Star Chef Yannick Alléno and Thabet Musleh enjoy an impromptu fun moment to underline the airport-first dual branding

I was privileged to be among the very first group to be served at the new lounge. Pictured from left with me are Thabet Musleh; Qatar Duty Free Head of Marketing Thomas Thiollier; Travel Retail Business Editorial Director Luke Barras-Hill; and DFNI-Frontier Editor Kapila Ireland

Thabet Musleh has overseen many exciting Qatar Duty Free projects over the past few years but there was a particular gleam in his eye on this occasion. “This is extra special,” he told me. “I think to bring the number one luxury brand in the world to do something like this speaks volumes about how we operate as a partner.

There is quite some distance to cover between the South and North Nodes at Hamad International. But there is no shortage of transport options. You can walk, take the train or, as in my case, call the Thabmobile.

“To have a 16-star Michelin chef like Yannick Alléno and the world’s number one luxury brand Louis Vuitton to trust you and to do something of this magnitude just speaks volumes of the team here and what they do and how they operate.”

Indeed it does. A Trinity-plus (or quaternity) collaboration if you like – airport, retailer, brand and Chef – is born.

Before a quick pre-departure breakfast at Harrods with Thabet, I did my best to keep Qatar Duty Free’s robust recent sales going, choosing some items from Hamleys for my grandchildren and, on request, a bottle of flavoured gin for my older son.

Qatar Duty Free’s gin selection is extensive and eclectic but spying the beautiful bottle of Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin and knowing it is managed in duty free by Barry Geoghegan’s Duty Free Global – this Blog’s sponsor – there could only be one choice. One delighted son and several delightful gin and tonics later (well presents are to be shared, right?), I can testify it was the right one.

I received five-star service, actually make that seven-star, from Jeff of Qatar Duty Free, another frontline hero

Due to the inflight wifi being down on this flight, I took the opportunity to catch up on some much-needed sleep and to take in a movie. My choice was the almost unbearably moving ‘Living’, starring the incomparable Bill Nighy as a veteran English civil servant given just months to live due to stomach cancer.

Perhaps it was my recent sleep deprivation. Perhaps a reaction to this week’s devastating news of the premature passing of that fine and good man, Eugenio Andrades of Dufry through a wretched disease (and a variant of it) I am well acquainted with. Or perhaps the knowledge that I am about to see my children and grandchildren after a long absence, but I found this film a searing reminder of one’s mortality and of the related need to find and then retain perspective in life.

The UK beckons. The place where I spent 33 years of my time on this planet and yet somewhere from which I now feel permanently estranged. I shall savour though every moment being reunited with my family, squeeze in some important work commitments, and reflect – like Bill Nighy’s character – on both the joy and the transience of existence.

Oh there arose my father’s pray’r
In holy ev’ning’s calm
How sweet was them my mother’s voice,
In the martyrs’ psalm
Now a’are gane!

We meet nae mair aneath the rowan tree
But hallow’d thoughts around thee twine
O’hame and infancy
Oh rowan tree