Beneath a blazing desert sun, an 8-strong convoy of 4x4s snaked south on the highway from Doha toward the border with Saudi Arabia for a desert safari as part of QTA mega fam trip to Qatar.
Upon reaching camp, the assorted travel specialists were treated to a postcard image of camels and Bedouin-style tents under an azure sky and in scorching temperatures.
Whilst tyres were being deflated on the vehicles to cope with the challenges of the desert dunes, some of the more daring travel specialists were hoisted onto the waiting camels for a short ride whilst others headed for the shade of the tents.
Climbing back into the vehicles, the participants buckled up for off-road adventure and the commencement of the dune-bashing excursion.
Ascending the first hills, things quickly became more turbulent as the vehicles crashed over the undulating sands and the team were treated to an extraordinary roller-coaster ride.
Reaching the crest of a particularly vertiginous bank of sand, the vehicles paused in a line so as to build up the anticipation before the first car broke the formation and went careering down the side of the steep slope, slipping and sliding with the sound of shifting sands clearly audible – along with the nervously excited cries of a few passengers.
Through the excitement it was still possible, in the calmer moments, to appreciate the beauty of the remote landscape; the vast expanse of whiteness with its hilly topography contrasting brilliantly with the pure, rich blue of the sky above.
But this desert safari was not all about aimless joyriding and things became a lot more serene on arrival at the natural wonder that is Khor Al Adaid – Qatar’s famous inland sea. This ‘UNESCO recognized’ site, where the sea encroaches into the desert, is only accessible by 4x4s and is certainly a journey worth undertaking.
Souq Waqif by night
Later that day, as dusk descended on the desert city, the travel specialists embarked on one final sight-seeing tour: a relaxed meander through the lanes and alleyways of the centrally located Souq Waqif. This low-rise area of restored traditional architecture, complemented by tasteful lighting, made for a pleasant change to the ultra-modern high-rise towers.
For the footweary, shisha lounges, tea shops, restaurants and cafés provide ample opportunity to relax and watch the world pass by. And for the souvenir hunters or curious browsers, the maze of streets contain an array of small shops selling spices, delicacies, perfumes, jewellery and all manner of other Middle Eastern goods. Perhaps the quirkiest area of Souq Waqif is Falcon Souk, an area reserved for falcon handling – there is even a falcon hospital! Falconry is a popular sport in the region and Doha is the destination for the wealthy owners of these birds to bring their injured pets.
Dinner at Intercontinental by the beach
With the ambling along alleyways complete, one final treat lay in store for the group: a sumptuous beachside dinner in the garden of the Intercontinental in West Bay, where the assorted travel specialist’s were able to exchange impressions of Qatar in a splendid setting.
Asked about her thoughts on Qatar, Kahlia Davis of Travelbag said: “I feel like Doha has a lot to offer for just about everyone – from business trips to those with family or friends. Dune bashing was a pretty thrilling experience.”
Having seen what Qatar has to offer as a stopover destination it is clear that perceptions of the country as a regional airport hub are bound to change – particularly with such attractive incentives as QTA’s new free transit visa, launched in partnership with Qatar Airways, that will allow people to add a little Middle Eastern flavor and color to their itineraries. The visa allows transiting passengers of all nationalities to enter Qatar for up to 96 hours between flights.
Travel Daily Media