Qatar - Dune Bashing. Better than Dubai?


It was a short flight from Dubai, just over 1 hour and with arrival in Doha late in the evening. By end of 2022 the World Cup will take place here in this small country. Other than Dubai, I heard not much about Qatar so far and also in general not much about the small Gulf countries. The more interesting it was to see what it is like to travel here.

I will solely be for a bit more than 3 days in Qatar. In addition, to see the city there is one thing that Qatar is famous for and this is Dune Bashing: 4WD driving on the dunes in the deserts. 

Little did I know about it, but it's their weekend activity, the same as in other countries where people go hiking or skiing. I wondered if the Dune Bashing is better in Dubai or in Qatar. The driver who is a professional 4WD guide in Dubai and Qatar, tells me in Qatar it's better because the Dunes are steeper. But more on that later.


Day 1 Arrival in Qatar

Already at the airport, everything made a very good impression. So to say, I felt welcome as a tourist. Everything is very modern, clean and well organized - at least it seems so. 


Doha has become a huge hub for travelers from Asia and Africa over the last few years. For the fact that it has such massive crowds to deal with, everything regarding Covid and Passport checks went very smoothly at the airport.

After the passport control and the free visa on arrival, it was necessary to buy a SIM card, because I had to install a special app due to Covid and for this everybody needs a mandatory SIM from Qatar. Also here, everything went quick and also the 15-minute ride with Uber to the hotel - a very stress-free arrival compared to many other countries.


Day 2 Sightseeing in Qatar

This morning I had to organize and do the PCR test. On the recommendation of the hotel I went to "American Hospital", as they would deliver the test in 12 hours guaranteed. 

Of course, that was not true, it took much longer. But no matter how long it takes, the important thing is that it will be negative. I have to wait but didn't have to quarantine until its ready.




The old town "Souq Waqif"

Uber works fine in Doha and there are enough cars that are picking up within 1-2 minutes. With Uber I went from the hospital to Souq Waqif. 

I was told it is a must-see in Qatar, also because it was built with traditional architecture. Since I was here in the morning, not much was going on and it was all very quiet.



At the other end is a big place to sit and watch. Again, all empty but with a good view of the "Islamic Cultural Center".



The whole area seems to be very well equipped for large crowds of tourists. Even though it was pretty empty at the time.




Doha Corniche

Across the street is the Corniche. A promenade that looks like it's dozens of kilometers long. From here was a great view of the city center. Time-wise it was slowly getting towards noon but temperature-wise it was still comfortable probably because it was "winter".



A few meters further a house that looks like made of stacked cubes. It's the "Islamic Art" museum. Also with a great view on the Doha downtown city center.



National Museum

In Doha everything is very easy to reach.

The south side has lots of attractions within walking distance and another one is the "National Museum of Qatar". Rarely seen such a spectacular museum from the outside.




To the city center

At the other end of the promenade is the City center, which was my destination for the afternoon. Again with Uber, I went further north to the City Center.


Very similar to Dubai is the City Center of Doha. Even if not as impressive as Dubai's, very spectacular to walk through the long main street and examine the towers.



At the end of the street there is even a small beach called "Friday Beach".



Katara 

The last area for today was the "Katara - The Cultural Village Foundation". I had no idea what to expect and I thought it would be some kind of tourist village or something. Even after arriving I was not quite sure what it was supposed to be. But it seemed to be a kind of shopping village, in the form of traditionally built houses and castles. Even an amphitheater was there.



There is a lot to see here, lots of objects and things that are typical for Qatar and probably its culture. Would have been great if I arrived here a little earlier, because now the sun was already setting. At the other end of the Katara was a huge promenade with many locals picnicking there, this time with a view of the southern side of Doha, where I was this morning.



"I have Covid!?"

In the meantime it became dark quite fast. In addition, a headache was plaguing me and my fear of catching covid was rising steadily. To get Covid here would be absolutely troublesome because then I would have to be in quarantine for 10 days and with bad luck, I would still be positive after that and would not be able to return home. The PCR test result will come tomorrow, so there is nothing left to do but wait.




Day 3 Dunebashing in Qatar

Slept very badly and woke up several times because of some sore throat and headache. I was sure I had Covid, but the PCR test result that arrived this morning said otherwise - negative. A huge relief set in and it must have been the air conditioning.


No Covid

Accordingly, I was relieved for the rest of the day and the 4x4 sand dune driving.

I was picked up at 13:00 by a white Toyota Landcruiser with leather interior. The driver was Javid from FalconTours. I organized the whole thing quickly this morning and was surprised that it was possible on such short notice.


The major Qatar weekend activity - Dune Bashing

Almost every Qatarian family has their own 4wd and they use it for the weekends to drive in the desert.

Must be fun I thought. The drive to the dunes in the south of Qatar took 45 minutes to the "entrance" to the sand dunes. However, the whole desert is open and there is no "entrance", but this seemed to be the general starting point. There were also tea stalls and camels here.



Preparing the car, deflate the tires

Toyota Landcruisers were everywhere here - these were said to be the best cars for driving through the desert and also because of the cheap spare parts, the most popular cars in Qatar. The driver prepared the Landcruiser by deflating the tires built for the desert. After a short tea the drive started.



The drive through the dunes, or dune bashing as it is called here, was full 2 hours driving in the dunes (+2 hours to get there and back to hotel). It goes over the dunes, along the coast and along oases. 

The whole activity is great fun even as a passenger, but how good the ride itself will be, depends entirely on the motivation and skill of the driver. My driver seemed to be motivated, driving down from the dunes mostly without warning, that's exactly how I hoped it would be.



Dune Bashing. So is it better than in Dubai?

The driver seems to be very experienced and I believe when he says he is driving on the dunes since 8 years in Dubai and Qatar. Surely he's also right when he says that this "sport" Dune Bashing is more fun and challenging here in Qatar than in Dubai.



Endless desert, or so, it seemed. 

The drive goes always in direction south and after approx. 35 kilometers the border to Saudi Arabia appears. However, there is no real border crossing. The dunes are often very steep and the depth of the sand very difficult to estimate.

Surely anyone whos driving here needs to know how to drive in sand dunes to get out here without digging. I would not drive myself in this area.



It is also possible to rent whole desert campers for vacations, or buggies or land cruisers for a few hours. However, driving does not look easy and at several places I have seen people digging out their vehicles.



There are no road rules in the real sense. However, the drivers know the driving behavior in the desert and can estimate accordingly whether on a dune with oncoming vehicles is to be expected.

We sand dune drivers can see through the dunes, thats why almost never any accidents happen.




After the 35 kilometers, there is also a kind of bay or river where the locals spend their weekends. Here they camp, fish and barbecue. Dune bashing is the favorite activity of the locals on weekends. The whole family drives here with the 4wd through the desert to camp and picnic.

After a short break, I was ready to drive back to the hotel. After 4.5 hours as a co-driver in the Toyota Landcruiser and slowly dusk, I was back again.
  



Day 4 - Today, leaving from Qatar to Oman

Today there was still some Covid administration to do. I should not complain as a traveler in this Corona time, after all, it is my own fault if you want to travel now. But the additional effort with filling out forms and other stuff is definitely a hassle.

In the afternoon, I headed for the airport and off to Muscat, the capital of Oman.

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