On The Moon In The Qatar Desert
Qatar is a flat and rocky peninsula sticking out of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. I took the opportunity to visit Qatar during a very long stopover on my way to Singapore. Choosing flights with a very long stop enabling me to get out and visit is something I try doing as much as I can. I rented a car at the airport for a very affordable price (and as you can guess, petrol costs nothing there). This is in my opinion the best option to visit Qatar free and easy.
It is no secret that Qatar is a desert country but I hadn’t realized to what extent. You often come across photos of deserts around the world, beautiful photos of giant sand dunes, small mountain ranges… you know, that kind of things. At least, there is SOMETHING.
I drove across the peninsula to a small town called Dukhan. On the way, all around, the immensity of the desert. NOTHING. I believe if there was a highway on the Moon or Mars, the landscape wouldn’t look that much different!
It is quite striking to drive in such an emptiness. If you ignore the electricity poles and cable regularly crossing the desert, most of the time all you will see is an endless flat landscape, with nothing but sand and stones.
I wouldn’t call it beautiful but however, it is certainly not the kind of landscape you see everyday. So I found it interesting to experience it anyway. I have an endless curiosity for the whole world, and the empty landscapes of Qatar also deserve to be discovered!
Enduring The Heat…
Temperature forecast: 41°C (106°F), in Doha (on the coast), and in the shade. The thing is, you are in the desert, and there is not shade. I wanted to see how it would feel to tackle the desert of Qatar, I was served! The heat was absolutely overwhelming, at the very limit of the unbearable. My car of course had air conditioning, making the temperature bearable but already very hot. At the second you turn it off, your car becomes an oven.
When I was out walking in the desert, after 10 minutes I would start feeling that my body won’t take it anymore very soon, and I would rush back to the car for some life-saving air conditioning. I would sit there for a while, drenched with sweat, mouth wide open breathing loudly as if I had just run a marathon. The level reached by the heat was really impressive.
Singing Sand Dunes
My first stop in the desert was the Singing Sand Dunes. They are called like that because when certain wind, temperature and humidity conditions are met, the flowing sand would produce a low pitched vibration and sound, called the singing of the dune. Unfortunately when I was there the dunes were not singing!
Once again, I felt like I was exploring some remote planet. On the ground, only the strange white stones that you can see in the panorama above, mixed with sand. And all around, there is nothing.
As I was trying to climb one of the dunes, I stopped for a minute, my feet half buried in the sand. The sand was so hot that after a few seconds it was starting to burn my feet through my shoes and socks! What astounded me was seeing some very healthy and green plants living there, the roots growing in this burning hot sand. Nature is amazing.
I have rarely felt so much hostility in any place I have been to. You find yourself so isolated, the heat is so extreme, the lack of shelter of any kind (except your car) feels so intimidating , that you realize that if anything goes wrong, you can be in a life-threatening situation very quickly.
Luckily my car worked just fine!
Rock Formations of Zekreet
Later, I decided to drive across the peninsula to Zekreet, a region famous for its strange rock formations in the middle of the desert. Some have the shape of a mushroom. They are often small plateaus made of a harder rock that was not eroded, unlike the desert around.
These rock formations added some interest to the landscape but once again, no matter how much I wished to walk around for hours and explore the whole area, the unbearable heat made it impossible 🙁
I don’t really know how to qualify this Qatar desert experience! I can’t say I loved it, I can’t say I disliked it. I think I am actually quite happy to have experienced such extreme landscapes and weather conditions, measuring myself to Nature, feeling how small and weak I am compared to this immense desert.