The Qatar Airways First Class Al Safwa First Lounge in Doha is a stunning first class lounge. It’s a wide open lounge that feels more like a museum than a lounge at times. But the lounge also has solid features like sleeping rooms, great dining, family/game rooms, and a spa.
Find out more about all of these features in this full Al Safwa Lounge review.
Journey to the Al Safwa First Lounge
Our journey started in Paris where we got to experience the Qatar Airways Premium Lounge for first class and business class passengers. I loved the design and layout of the lounge as well as the food offerings and you can read more about that lounge experience here.
We flew from Paris to Doha on the Qatar Airways A380 in first class. I had a great flight and enjoyed the elegant first class experience with spacious suites, great service, and a beautiful on-board bar and lounge. It easily ranked as one of my top first class experiences.
We arrived close to midnight to Doha and made our way through the security line for transfers. The escalators leading to the Al Safwa Lounge were immediately after security and so we didn’t have to walk very far at all.
Al Safwa Lounge access rules
The Al Safwa Lounge is restricted to those flying on first class on Qatar and according to Flyertalk, also those flying on oneworld first class. I don’t believe the standard procedure is to allow access to Emerald status members but I think that some have been given access before.
Upgraded passengers are not given access to the Al Safwa Lounge.
You can still get access if you’re connecting from a first class flight that’s longer than five hours even if your connecting leg out of Doha is not first class. In fact, that’s what we did by flying CDG->DOH->MLE, with CDG->DOH in first class and DOH->MLE in business class.
We were initially denied access because our layover was over eight hours. The agent working the front desk had to convince his superiors that they should make an exception and admit us since our layover was only 45 minutes over the eight hour limit. It took about 15 minutes to sort out but I was very relieved when they allowed us in!
Entering Al Safwa Lounge
Once we were given access we made our way through the massive sandstone and marble corridors of the lounge where we were met with a beautiful and colorful art piece from the late Keith Haring. It’s not the type of art I expected to see here but in a weird way it sort of fit in.
Making your way through the high ceiling corridors feels like strolling through a world-class museum. I’m a pretty big museum fan so I was in love with the architecture and layout of the lounge (though the use of some of the space can definitely be questioned).
The lounge is home to an interesting collection of Middle Eastern artifacts from the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. Some of these pieces like the earthenware below date back to the 10th century or even longer ago. As you make your way from the entrance, you’ll see these artifacts housed in glass displays along with interpretive panels.
I love lounges that incorporate unique features and design elements into their lounge environments and that’s something that the Al Safwa Lounge does to a maximum. You definitely do not feel like you’re at “just another airport lounge” here.
On the other side of the hallway, a waterfall flows gently from the ceiling along the wall and down to the floor. It’s yet another impressive design feature of the lounge.
Al Safwa Lounge sleep rooms
After getting a bit of a museum fix, we headed straight for the sleep rooms.
The Al Safwa Lounge offers sleep rooms that come with either one or two beds but we were each given a separate room, which was okay with me. These are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and you’re allowed a maximum six hours though you can pay for extra time.
Note: If your layover is under four hours, you might get some pushback on getting access.
After checking in with the front desk they led us to our rooms which were at the end of the hallway.
I had room 8 which was more spacious than Brad’s room, which was room 7.
These sleeping rooms are more like hotel rooms than nap rooms. They are spacious rooms with a comfortable bed, desk, TV, and convenient control settings for the temperature and lighting right beside the bed. I can’t even begin to explain how good it feels to fully relax in a room like this after a long flight.
They have a connected bathroom with showers that are on par with luxury hotels and come with all your amenities, including shampoo, soap, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, slippers, blow dryer, and just about anything else that you think you’d need.
Once in the bed, I got comfortable pretty quickly though initially the room was on the warm side. But I just couldn’t sleep because I knew we had this amazing lounge to ourselves at the moment and I wanted to get out and explore (and get photos). I did rest up for about two hours though. I never actually fell asleep but after getting up and taking a shower, I was ready to grab breakfast.
Al Safwa dining experience
The dining area is very open just like the rest of the lounge. It has a large bar in the middle and restaurant-style seating lines the perimeter of the lounge.
The large reflective wall you see on the left of the image below is actually a gigantic wine cabinet.
The bar has a great selection of spirits, but I didn’t see Krug on the shelves or on the menu. Although it was about 3:30am, I don’t think I would’ve turned down a glass of Krug had I been offered one.
Note that during Ramadan no alcohol will be served in the lounge, unlike other Middle Eastern carriers that at least serve it during some hours.
We made our way to one of the tables in the dining area which is beautifully designed in a very open layout with partitions that help create a more intimate setting and giant halo lights which hang from the high ceiling.
Even though we were the only people actively walking around the lounge, there were several staff members on duty. They greeted us very warmly and quickly brought us out menus. During our entire meal, the staff was extremely attentive and personable and it really was a great lounge dining experience.
I wasn’t in the mood for a traditional Arabic breakfast (although those are quite good), so I went with the waffles and eggs Benedict and we both tried out the pastries and cappuccinos.
I loved the presentation of the cappuccinos.
The waffles, while small, came with great presentation and were very sweet.
Meanwhile the eggs Benedict offered a nice hearty way to start the day.
Here’s the full breakfast menu that we were given.
And here’s the drink menu from the bar.
After breakfast, I decided to explore the rest of the lounge while it was still empty.
The Grand Water Fountain
I backtracked through the lounge and came across the “Grand Water Fountain,” which looks like something straight out of Harry Potter.
Al Safwa Lounge seating
There’s a good variety of seating options in the lounge that you can choose from and they are scattered throughout this vast temple of a lounge.
Some seats are a bit more modern casual.
And others are a bit more luxurious and come equipped with tablets so that you can monitor your flight status at any moment.
There are also some sofas for a more relaxed vibe and well suited for socializing.
Then there are my favorite seats which were the recliners with privacy cubicles. I would’ve preferred for these to be oriented the other way for maximum privacy but I felt that these seats were very comfortable and a great place to get some work done.
I did notice how chilly the lounge felt when I was sitting in these seats as vents are located above them so having a jacket or sweater is not a bad idea.
The buffet area
I then made my way over to the the small buffet/snack area. They had some of the same food items that were served in the dining area, such as the muffins and pastries. They also had your typical lounge buffet items, such as cold cuts, fruits, berries, and other items.
It’s not an overly impressive spread but throughout the day they’ll serve up snacks and food items, such as sushi so it can be a nice alternative to the restaurant style dining that might hold you up for more time.
After checking out the dining areas, I was in full-blown exploratory mode and started to check out each individual section and room in the lounge.
I first came across the media room, which was a cool cinema room with seating for about ten people.
An entire section of the lounge is dedicated to various family needs.
There’s large semi-private family rooms which are like cozy living rooms with sofas, TVs, and plenty of room to store your luggage. I think there might also be a shower in this area.
A nanny room
There’s a room for attentive nannies.
Parent’s room and game rooms
There’s even a parent’s room dedicated for things like diaper changes. Another section of the lounge houses game rooms for kids of various ages and has a room dedicated to game consoles (Playstation, etc.).
What I remember most about this area, though, was coming across this tower of macaroons. I don’t know who these macaroons were destined for but they were about tempting as can be. These were found in a section of the family area dedicated for refreshments and snacks that is probably set up better when it’s not 4am.
Al Safwa Lounge business center
The business center is very modern. The walls are not fully private though, so while I love the look of the design, it’s odd to me that they didn’t have any truly private meeting rooms.
The glass walls and minimalist design along with the Macbooks and wooden desks, made me feel like I had stepped into an Apple store for a second.
Al Safwa Lounge duty free shop
I also wandered into the duty free shop where I was told I’d be allowed only one photo for “security purposes.” I guess they really need to protect those chocolates?
After that I walked to the jewelry store, which housed items like Rolexes and other high-end items. The security in this part of the lounge was even tighter and I didn’t get the feeling that getting even one photo of these high-end items was an option, so I left pretty quickly.
The jewelry store is located out on the terrace which opens up to the terminal. On this terrace, there’s additional seating as well.
The bathroom was very spacious, clean, and elegant. There was an attendant in there even in the wee hours of the morning which honestly felt a bit awkward.
The Al Safwa Spa
I’m not a spa person but I’ll at least consider it when it’s complimentary. However, at the Al Safwa lounge they don’t offer you any complimentary services (unlike many other flagship first class lounges). And not just that but the prices for some of the services are quite high.
So I ultimately did not try out the spa and can’t comment on the quality.
Final word on the Al Safwa Lounge
With the artwork, cultural artifacts, and water features, the Al Safwa Lounge in Doha is probably the most visually stunning first class lounge I’ve visited. I give it huge props for the sleeping rooms (which are heaven sent) and for having so much space so that it doesn’t feel crowded. The dining and service was exceptional, too. And I loved that there were a lot of different relaxation options for both business travelers and families.
I enjoyed this experience more than other top flagship first class lounges like Cathay Pacific’s The Pier, Singapore’s Private Room, and Etihad’s First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi. While I still have a lot more first class lounges to explore, I think the Al Safwa Lounge is definitely going to be one of the top first class lounge experiences for me.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.