Adrenaline-Pumping Desert Adventures
© Qatar Tourism Authority
The untouched, undulating dunes and diverse landscapes of Qatar’s desert are a spectacle to behold. This tranquil and barren environment has a unique kind of beauty to it, particularly at sunrise and sunset, when the famous Arabian sun reflects off the pale sand, creating scenes that have inspired many poets and artists over the years.
Hire a 4WD with an experienced driver for the day to explore the desert to the southwest of the city. They will take you on a breathtaking white-knuckle ride known as dune bashing, driving up and down steep inclines at pace, sand whipping at the windows of the vehicle. You’ll stop at the inland sea called Khor Al Adaid, a Unesco recognised natural reserve, which, with its towering golden sand dunes bordering pure white beaches and sparkling clear water, is a great vantage point for a photo. Here, you can also peer over the border at Saudi Arabia.
Longer tours often combine a morning and evening of dune bashing, with an afternoon experiencing a traditional Bedouin camp, sand skiing or sand boarding and camel riding, too. Go dune bashing on board a monster bus or don helmets and become a passenger onboard a dune buggy, with a guided tour complete with headsets, followed by an adrenaline-fuelled dune bashing experience just inches from the sand will give you hair-raising desert adventure.
Water Sports In Unique Settings
© Alex Sergeev
There’s no better way to view Doha’s stunning skyline than from the water, and for an authentic experience, this just has to be done on board a traditional dhow. These hand-made wooden boats are an important part of Qatari heritage, traditionally used for fishing and pearl diving, and look equally majestic gliding over the sparkling sea during the day as they do when they are lit up with colourful neon lights at night.
Head to the Corniche, where a number of dhows are moored at regular intervals, offering short rides out onto the Gulf, lasting 45 minutes to an hour. For a more hands-on water sports experience, you can try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding around the impressive horseshoe-shaped, yacht-filled marina at Qatar’s manmade island, or head north of the city to the mangroves of Al Thakira, to kayak around the intricate waterways which attract an array of birdlife including herons and flamingos.
Animals are a huge part of the country’s culture, and this passion is visible in the Qataris' devotion to a wide range of animal-based sports; in particular, horse racing, camel racing and falcon hunting. Visitors have the opportunity to both witness and even take part in some of these sports if they desire.
Qatar Foundations’ Equestrian Centre, Al Shaqab is a great place to start. The sprawling stables and training site is focused on improving the quality of Arabian show horses and preserving the breed by continuing the lineage of Qatar’s finest. They offer tours of their facilities, enabling you to meet some of the stunning horses that are housed there and witness them in action as they train with world-class riders and handlers.
A little further outside the city, at Al Shahaniya Racetrack, you can drive alongside camels as they race with mini-robots attached to their humps, or head to the resting stables to see the camels a little closer and for some great photo opportunities.
Exploring Qatari Culture And Tradition
For a day visit, it’s worth making the trip over to the untouched western edge of the country, where the unusual limestone rock formations of Ras Abrouk that have been slowly sculpted by the prevailing wind jut out of the ground at interesting angles. Climbing atop this topography yields an impressive view of the Qatar Peninsular; the very same vantage point that the country’s forebears will have used to scan the land for the perfect spot to pitch their tents decades before.
If you are willing to travel outside of Doha, often across rugged terrain and desert, there are a wealth of historical sites of interest to explore besides: the Al Zubara Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site, one of the best-preserved and most extensive examples of an 18th-19th century settlement in the region; the Barzan Towers, built in the village of Umm Salal Mohammed between 1910 and 1916; Al Wajba Fort, the site of a famous battle, built in the late 18th century; and the Al Jassasiya rock carvings (all 874 of them!) which date all the way back to Neolithic times.