Qatar has got a brand new 10,000 square metre indoor tropical garden, and it’s inside Doha’s Hamad International Airport. The gardens form part of a massive expansion project that is set to increase the capacity of the airport by around 30 million passengers per year.
The plans were first unveiled in early 2019, and despite a global pandemic, the tiny but incredibly wealthy Persian Gulf state of Qatar says it’s still on track to open the first phase of a two-stage expansion programme ahead of the FIFA World Cup which will take place in the country in November.
The centrepiece of the expansion is the tropical gardens, as well as a 268-square metre water feature and we’ve finally had our first look at the finished product in a video released by the Qatari government’s official communications office.
The short video shows the first glimpses of the garden, along with the new state-of-the-art security screening checkpoints and Duty Free shops. The video was released after Qatar’s Prime Minister Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani took an ‘inspection’ tour of the facility.
Sadly, the video didn’t give too much away and we still don’t know what the controversial water feature is going to look like.
Why so controversial? Well, it’s all down to the fact that the tropical gardens and standout water feature are uncannily similar to the ‘Jewel’ retail space in Singapore Changi Airport which also features a tropical indoor garden and spectacular waterfall – the largest indoor waterfall in the world.
Without naming any names, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has suggested that executives close to Singapore Changi stole the idea of the Jewel after a visit to Doha where they viewed Qatar’s expansion plans.
Perhaps concerned that casual observers would think Qatar had stolen Singapore’s design idea, Al Baker told reporters in 2019: “You will realize that somebody copied our design, which was already on the table nearly six years ago … We had individuals from that country, I will not name it, that took our design and did it.”
Al Baker was, however, careful never to name which airport had allegedly stolen Doha’s ideas.
The difference between Singapore’s Jewel and the tropical gardens at Doha International, though, is that while the Jewel is actually located outside the main airport terminal, Doha has built its gardens within the actual airport, meaning that it will be open to transfer passengers.
Doha’s expansion also includes nearly 12,000 square metres of new retail space and an expanded Business Class lounge which will look over the gardens.
Unfortunately, despite opening in time for the FIFA World Cup, not all passengers will get to enjoy the gardens. To make room for all the extra flights needed to meet the demand for the soccer tournament, Qatar is moving 13 airlines to the recommissioned Doha International Airport which sits on the opposite side of a major highway from Hamad Airport.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.