Qatar Part 3

Last night I was talking to a friend about my trip and she asked me about my favourite moments in Qatar. It was aough question as there were so many incredible moments. I decided to break it down into categories, and this story was the winner in the “Best Adventure” category.

For the ten days that I was in Doha, Kathy had an extensive itinerary for each day; morning, noon and night we had things to see and places to go. I’m not sure if I mentioned this in my other posts, but my trip was packed full!  😉 Kathy had planned most everything, however this part was Jeff’s contribution- Dune Bashing! When he first described to me what we were doing it sounded fun, but I didn’t really grasp exactly what it all entailed. He talked about off-roading in the desert, doing these crazy dives with the vehicle and overall joy-riding through the dunes. It sounded great! I assured me we had a professional driver from Black Pearl Tourism (read their description of the “Desert Safari“)and it was going to be a blast. Jeff was stoked, Kathy was a little nervous and I was excited, with little idea about what I was about to experience.

The day arrived. After picking up Kathy from work, dropping Kaiya off at home, we headed to the agreed pick up location, a grocery store parking lot, to meet our driver. After talking to a random man in a Landcruiser, a man we thought to be our driver, we got into the right Landcruiser and hit the road. Our driver was from Jordan and had been leading tours for three years in Qatar. From what we could tell, leading “desert safari” tours was the dream job for any young, single guy. Bombing around in the desert in your beast of a vehicle (our driver’s “girlfriend”), while doing dare-devil moves to impress the other drivers on the hills, with screaming girls depending on you for their life. What could be better?  I could think of a few guys who would love to have that job and let me tell you it is incredible.

The Screaming Girls before we hit the dunes

So what is dune bashing? After slightly deflating the vehicles bald, balloon tires to give them some extra surface area, everyone jumps into their 4×4 SUV’s and heads into a sea of dunes. A couple of vehicles start out with us, but very quickly our driver takes his own path and heads for “his dunes.” It’s a complete mystery how he knows where he is going as each dune looks exactly the same to me. With Arabic music blasting through the speakers we jump over waves of sand, bumping over the ripples below. Our excitement is starting to mount, as we see bigger and bigger dunes ahead of us and then before we know it, we are riding the crest of what appears to be the biggest dune of them all. Just as we start to think, “we are dangerously close to the edge of this dune,” our driver turns the wheel suddenly and DROPS the vehicle down the side of the dune! Sliding vertically down the mountain, a wall of sand crashes over the vehicle. We are holding on for dear life, absolutely convinced that the vehicle is about to roll. Just when we think we can feel two wheels lifting off the ground, he turns the steering-wheel again and we’re back on all four. Oh, and did I mention that we’re screaming the entire way down? It is insane! Before you can catch your breathe, he guns it back up another dune and then does the whole routine again.

view out the window of the vehicle (we were stopped)

the carpet of sand

Jeff was adement to get some shots of the whole adventure and so at one point, our driver let Jeff out of the vehicle at the bottom of a gigantic dune and kept Kathy and I in the car. We thought the first half of the trip was heart stopping, but now we were in for the ride of a lifetime! With an audience below, our driver started to show off. Screaming back up the dune, he did slide after slide, fall after fall, putting the vehicle perpendicular with the ground, snaking down the side, and throwing the vehicle off the crest. This was no adventure for the weak of heart, but instead was a thriller for any adrenaline junky.

swamped

Copyright Jeff Epp. Click on Picture for the rest of Jeff's incredible shots on Flickr

After Jeff confirmed he had some good shots, our driver asked Kathy and I to get out of the vehicle, now at the top of the dune, “in case something happens”.  We didn’t think that he could get any crazier, but he took it up to a whole new level, now with an audience of three!  We watched from on top as he put the pedal to the metal and came zooming up the side of the mountain. When it seemed like he was headed straight for us, he turned and literally FLEW over the top of the crest, bringing his vehicle high into the air. After doing an impressive swooping turn, he came careening towards us again, only to lift off over the sand, showing us the underbelly of his vehicle as he dove over the mountain. It was like we were watching a young buck frolicking in a meadow but a two ton vehicle jacked on male testosterone bashing over sand dunes. Needless to say, we were thankful we were out of the vehicle.

Flying down the dune

jumping the side

it's steeper than it looks

Like a dog after playing in the water, he shook off the sand and we got back into the car. Relatively peacefully he took us to the Inland Sea where we walked out into the water and looked over the sea to Saudi Arabia. It was absolutely stunning and after a ride like that, it was a much welcomed place of calm and peace. Our driver said he would often come out here with his “girlfriend” and shisha pipe and watch the stars. It was easy to imagine as it was a true place of beauty and rest. A good place to catch your breathe after a day of dunning.

Inland Sea- looking over to Saudi Arabia

Missing my man

After soaking up the sea-fresh air for a while we headed back into town. It was getting dark by now and we were all ready for a good night sleep. While we got our tires pumped up again, our driver explained the dangers of what we just experienced. He told us stories and showed us videos of inexperienced boys who try to do the stunts of professional drivers. As rumour has it, one Qatari boy dies every day while dune bashing. It was a numbing statistic but yet it remains the most popular Qatari pass-time and a tourist favourite.  Surprisingly, yet not so surprising, we signed no waivers, no permission slips and no agreements. Do you think this type of thing would even be allowed if it were in Canada? Unlikely.

Needless-to-say, it was an adventure like nothing I’ve experienced before and I’m glad to be alive to say it was one of my favourite moments of the trip and a tour I would recommend to anyone!

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