Raffles Doha Near+Far review: 9/10
Why stay at Raffles Doha
Those familiar with the Raffles brand know they are in for something special when booking into Raffles Doha. Those who don’t, well, this is where the fun begins. For a brand whose motto and links to royalty are part of its DNA, this is as true a representation of what it gets. Raffles Doha is, arguably, the most impressive, luxurious and OTT hotel in Qatar, a palace comprising 132 mini palaces (or suites). Everything here is just a little bit more extra than the competitors. The walk-in maxi bars in suites, the red velvet cinema room, the suites with electronic scent machines and steam showers, the private spa suites with their own pools and gym, the vast collection of first, second and third edition books, and the salubrious restaurants. During the World Cup, it hosted some of the most prominent VIPs. Still, it certainly doesn’t rest on its laurels – constantly innovating with some exciting concepts in the pipeline to make the stay even more special. Raffles Doha set a standard for a new level of luxury not yet seen in the city; in a way, Burj Al Arab redefined Dubai’s hotel offering. If there were six stars, this hotel would make the cut.
Raffles Doha occupies one-half of the city’s newest architectural marvel, Katara Towers. Opened in November 2022, the project is a beacon post-World Cup Doha, an event that saw a seismic shift in perception of and attitudes around the city. Katara Towers sits in the north of Doha in the heart of Lusail District – often dubbed Qatar’s ‘second city’, but it’s more like a shiny new district of the capital. Jump in a readily available taxi, or make use of Lusail’s public transport network to explore nearby Place Vendome (Doha’s grandiose new Pariisan-inspired shopping destination) and the majority of the city’s slew of new shiny culinary names like Zuma, Beef Bfar, Tatel and Mykonos beach club Nammos. Doha is a small city, and a longer cab – or metro – ride will take you to all the big attractions like the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and artsy Msheireb Downtown Doha.
Rooms and suites: 9/10
This is Qatar’s first all-suite hotel, but these are not like most suites, and instead like mini private palaces. 132 suites make up the hotel, half Arabesque and half individually designed characterful retreats. Arabian suites have beguiling touches like iron detailing on the door leading you into the space with hand-carved ceilings, gilded walls, a separate living area and a gleaming marble bathroom with experiential showers (a steam room at the touch of a button). Everything is just a little more than competitors: signature Raffles mattresses made more plush, and in-room fragrance is now controlled by an intelligent Compoz scent library that releases fragrant bursts around the clock to suit your mood. A personal delight is the walk-in maxi bar – guarded by iron doors and stocked to the ceiling with snacks and beverages. Fridges stock wine and complimentary artisan beverages and Raffles own-branded snacks – including healthy protein and collagen-imbued creations. Another delight is a bean-to-cup coffee machine with a milk frother and high-tech kettle. Much appreciation should be had for the ‘jewellery box – the leather-clad dressing room resembling a vintage trunk, with the same trunk-like drawers and a light-up vanity area, plus plenty of plugs for the in-room Dyson hairdryer and straighteners. A huge draw is the expansive private terraces (among the biggest in the city) – looking out at Fairmont Doha across the curve, the ocean and the city skyline with lots of outdoor seating.
The other half have their own identity the Designer Suite, Royal Suite, and the two-bedroom Parisian sure – an ode to the Haussman townhouses of the City of Light with wall panelling, unique art and a private gym.
Food and drink: 9/10
Raffles’ dining programme is quite spectacular, and the hotel has already become a destination for fine and fabulous dining in the city. Breakfast is a delight, a small but perfect Arabic-meets-international menu of foul medames, shakshuka and tiers of fresh, crispy pastries. In the lobby lounge, Malaki Lounge serves afternoon teas to the tinkle of a live pianist, spilling out from the grand atrium to the tiered, green garden terraces. Come evening, it becomes a casual yet chic spot for cocktails, shisha and Middle Eastern music. Sultry cocktail spots are a plenty. The ground floor Blue Cigar is an iteration of Raffles Writing Bar and is home to 200 first editions, which tower sky high in the blue velvet space. Guests and locals come for cocktails, cigars and to sit in the company of literary greats and paragraphs are read out by eloquent staff each night. The liveliest atmosphere is had upstairs at Acoustic, a custom-made sundowner spot and rooftop restaurant delivering high-octane energy and live music.
The biggest star is Alba by Enrico Crippa – the first international outpost from the chef known for his three Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo in Alba, northern Italy. Being from the home of the revered white truffles, it’s not too surprising to see a ‘truffle library’ alongside a wine cellar and private dining room – where 40% of the wines are unique to the property. The menu is full of Piedmont classics – rich meaty agnolotti, and when Crippa himself visits, bringing Piedmontese ingredients fresh from the town – the famous pink risotto. While Crippa is based in Italy, he’s left the kitchen in the hands of his protégé Antonio D’Alessio, who trained at the original restaurant.
Spa and facilities: 8/10
The Raffles Spa was one of the last facilities to open in the hotel, but it was worth the wait. The spacious, soothing white area is the region’s first Medi Spa and offers five individual spa suites – with their own private pools, hammams and gyms. Those not booking one of the private suites can use the small yet high-tech fitness area, sauna and hammam. Beauty treatments – of which there are dozens to choose from – come from Swiss brand Dr Burgener skincare, and treatments are some of the most innovative around – offering results way after checkout. An outdoor pool looks out onto the Arabian Gulf, dotted with a handful of cabanas.
Elegant, glossy, and genteel, yet still with personality and character, Raffles Doha is maturing into an establishment its sister properties would be proud of. After starting life with a bang, it’s finding its groove and feet, working on what it truly envisioned before the hurried World Cup opening. Guests can book knowing that all rooms here are brilliant opulent suites, all restaurants are fantastic and there will likely be a treatment or facility to soothe, satiate or heal at the media spa-cum-wellness wonderland. This hotel is bringing in a new era for Qatar, and we’re watching its journey and evolution with open and eager eyes.