Saturday, December 22, 2007

“Riding the dunes is like dancing salsa”

Here's my second post on vacation in Qatar (this is the first).

Today my parents and I and some American friends headed south of Doha to the sand dunes and the Inner Sea – a part of the Arabian Gulf (don’t call it the Persian Gulf here) that juts into Qatar. (You can click here and zoom in on the southeast corner of the country right next to Saudi.)

We went in two SUVs and drove until the road ended. There were some camels there,

and I hoped on one for a short ride.

Our drivers/guides deflated the tires a little bit and we drove into the desert, leaving any roads behind us. Unlike the rocky desert in the northern part of Qatar, this was all sand.

I have no idea how they knew where they were going, but they did. We stopped off at a pool of water that is left from high tide of the gulf.

We got back in the SUVs and kept driving. And this was quite the drive. We would go over the dunes, with the driver gunning it, then we would go down big dunes with the car turning sideways. It’s hard to grasp with a picture what it was like or explain it. The closest thing is a roller coaster with a car. My feet would be airborne and my camera would jump off my lap as we went up and down. We would drive on top of a dune a few feet from a 50-100 foot plunge. We went up and down all sorts of dunes like this.

This was about the angle we were at a lot of the time. The dark ground on the left was the flat ground.

They had walkie-talkies in the car. The best was when they started talking in Arabic, then suddenly we would both at the top a huge dune next to each other like a race. Here’s one hill where we went down almost completely sideways.

The height and slope are hard to picture, but this is what it looks like from the rear view mirror.

In the car we were listening to American hip-hop and Latin music, though when we first started going on the dunes he put on music from Pirates of the Caribbean. As we were driving, our driver told me “riding the dunes is like dancing salsa.” I was thinking, “can it get any better than driving in the middle of the desert in Qatar listening to Akon and Beyonce with the driver telling me this is like Latin dancing?” We drove for about 45-60 minutes in the desert jumping over dunes, when suddenly we were at the Arabian Gulf.

The land in the distance is Saudi Arabia. I put on my bathing suit and went for a quick swim.

The water was great. I only wish that we could have spent a few hours there. But after half an hour or so, we piled back in and drove back up to the road, filled the tires with air, and came home.

Edit: I forgot to mention that as we were sliding down the dunes, I asked our driver if he's ever seen cars flip over. He said "plenty of times." It wasn't the most reassuring thing I've ever heard.


Michael said...

Most excellent. I'm just in Utah with all the snow and family... Last time I will come here for a while.