I've been to the desert on a horse with no name...

Trip Start Sep 22, 2006
Trip End Jan 2007

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Flag of Qatar  ,
Thursday, October 12, 2006

The three Land Cruisers were waiting for us outside our office when we finished work on Friday, ready to take us out on an overnight desert safari to the dunes outside Doha. To be fair, most of Qatar is desert, spotted with petroleum plants and refineries, but for the most part there is a whole lot of sand in this country. So a group of about 13 of us decided to go on an overnight tour to the Inland Sea and go 'dune-bashing' in some jeeps. I hate that term, but really that's what happens out there - you get into a big 4WD and tear up and down the sand dunes at terrifyingly steep angles. No doubt this is environmentally un-friendly, something about destroying the dunes, but to be quite honest there is so much sand here it just gets shifted around, and there is absolutely nothing living out here in this harsh landscape (animal, vegetable, or mineral) so I didn't feel too guilty about it.

We drove over the dunes to our camp, bouncing along, screaming away at the scary parts and dancing to the dance music our driver had cranked up in the car. With a stop for a sunset photo/prayer stop we made it to camp in about 2 hours, and were welcomed with a cool soft drink and the promise of a big buffet meal in about 45 minutes.

We relaxed a bit in the camp and then made our way down to the sea for a quick swim before eating. The sun had set as we jumped into the water and the stars above were incredible - no light pollution at all to fade the shine of the stars and we were so busy looking up that when a few minutes later I started splashing around in the water I realized that not only were there stars in the sky, but it looks like thousands of points of light in the water as well. It was phosphorescence, or bioluminescence - basically plankton that glows bright white-yellow in the water when disturbed by movement like people swimming. It was so incredible I didn't even know whether to look up at the sky or the water. The sight of thousands of little lights glowing underwater in the shape of a person as they swim by, with the reflection of the stars above, in the middle of the desert in the Arabian Gulf. Now that is a truly amazing experience.

On our return to camp we had a buffet of kebabs, rice, hummous, pita bread, olives and salad followed by sweets, coffee or tea, and of course an apple flavoured shisha pipe.

I decided to sleep outside under the stars on a platform covered by a few mats. Initially I was going to just sleep on the dunes but I remembered our driver on the way telling us about a rather alarming Qatari past time. Apparently guys come out here in their Land Cruisers and drive around like maniacs in the sand at high speeds - which is bad enough, but then they cut their headlights and do it in the pitch blackness!! The thought of getting run over by a Land Cruiser in my sleep was enough to keep me sleeping in the designated camping area. After another late night swim to wash off the sand before bed, I crawled into my sleeping bag, found Orion in the sky (still the only constellation I can ever find!!) and fell asleep lulled by the sweet sound of revving 4WD engines tearing through the desert. I guess the reminders of civilization are never too far away here...
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