These Regional Airport Terminals Will Have You Wishing for a Layover

From tropical gardens to guiding robots, these regional terminals will make you never want to step outside the airport.

By Layan Adham Ismail


Sometimes due to tediously long connections resulting from ill-advised frugality, oftentimes owing to unfortunate environmental elements, but mostly because of our underestimation of Cairo traffic, leading to a missed flight, we frequently end up spending more time at the airport than we’d like.

However, around the region, there exists a lavish selection of airport terminals that would make even the grumpiest of flyers (that would be yours truly) grin at the news of a delayed flight. Forget about the airport-standard stale overpriced foods, over-lit yet somehow still claustrophobic gates and hospital-reminiscent white corridors – these regional airport terminals are offering up tropical gardens, art installations and ‘shaded villages’, successfully rendering the journey even more enticing than the destination itself.

Hamad International Airport, Terminal 1 – Doha, Qatar

The region’s crowning jewel, Hamad International Airport is one of the world’s top airports in both luxury and modernity. Consisting of one state-of-the-art spacious terminal, the impressive structure boasts a departure hall with a skylight-inclusive arched roof, architecture inspired by the building’s coastal location, and over 20 large-scale permanent art installations – most notably the seven-metres tall yellow ‘Lamp Bear’ sculpture by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. 

Yet, the most breathtaking feature of Hamad International Airport is its newly opened tropical garden – the Orchard. Besides an aquatic-plant-filled bio pond and a massive water feature at the centre, this botanical haven also features vegetation sourced from sustainable forests around the world.

Menara Airport, Terminal 1 – Marrakech, Morocco

This one’s less about functionality and more about pure aesthetics. 

The elaborate design of Menara Airport’s Terminal 1 evokes a certain sense of regality, typically associated with traditional and opulent Moroccan palaces. Intricately fusing 21st-century aesthetics with classic Islamic geometric and nature motifs, the terminal’s design is both culturally inspired and modernity-focused.

Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3 – Dubai, UAE

As the world’s largest terminal, it’s no surprise that Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3, which is primarily used for Emirates flights, houses a vast selection of globally acclaimed restaurants and popular chains, an expansive retail space catering to luxury enthusiasts, a number of comprehensive spas, and even a ‘Moments of Reflections’ area, featuring two zen gardens, trees and ponds that transform into miniature waterfalls. 

The design of this world-class terminal is characterised by serpentine-like curved edges, intricate Arabesque diamond-shaped patterns, and strategically placed glass panels that allow the infusion of natural light.

Zayed International Airport, Terminal A – Abu Dhabi, UAE

With a wide variety of opulent outlets, rejuvenating spa facilities and dedicated relaxation zones, the newly inaugurated Terminal A is all about travel comfort.

Making its recent acting debut as part of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, the terminal channels the energies and aesthetics of the surrounding environment, allowing it to inform the intricate motifs of the breathtaking interior design.

Arguably the most remarkable architectural element of this innovative space, the terminal’s undulating roof gracefully envelops the structure and enables sunlight to permeate without exposing passengers to the risk of overheating.

Istanbul Airport, Main Terminal – Istanbul, Turkey

Modernity takes centre stage at another recently refurbished terminal, namely the one at Istanbul Airport, designed by Grimshaw Architects and lauded for its efficiency-focused and sustainability-oriented structure. With cutting-edge features like a fleet of guiding robots, the airport's single terminal presents a bustling variety of amenities, including cafes, restaurants, bars, and a revamped duty-free shopping zone. 

The terminal itself stands as a contemporary masterpiece, blending architectural innovation with the country’s rich history and culture. Islamic-inspired arcs and curves adorn the space, while the main hall pays homage to the Bosphorus Strait. Finally, the iconic air traffic control tower, resembling a tulip and reaching a height of 90 metres, stands as the centrepiece, marrying tradition with modernity in Istanbul's skyline.

Muscat International Airport, Terminal 1 – Muscat, Oman

Drawing inspiration from Oman's surrounding mountainous and arid desert landscapes, Muscat International Airport’s Terminal 1 manages to exude both sophistication and innovation, incorporating Omani elements in its sand-dune-shaped ceiling sculptures, camel-coloured finishings and Arabesque wooden panels. 

However, the terminal’s allure goes beyond its physical features. By offering a comprehensive array of facilities – including well-stocked duty-free shops, diverse spa rooms and dedicated prayer rooms – as well as a state-of-the-art baggage handling system, the terminal makes it very clear that its focus is on the traveller’s comfort.

King Abdulaziz International Airport, Hajj Terminal – Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Comprising a linear terminal building and a separate support complex for travellers preparing for their journey to Mecca, the Jeddah Hajj Terminal is only active during the six-week Hajj period and was designed with the traditional Bedouin tent in mind.

Featuring 210 open-air white fibreglass tent canopies with a capacity for 80,000 people, the award-winning and visually enthralling ‘shaded village’ design of the Hajj Terminal incorporates various shading and passive cooling techniques to shield travellers from the hot desert air.


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