I recently stopped by Qatar to spend time with Kristen and Craig, two of my best friends from my DC days. They left DC for Doha around the same time I left for California, so we spent the first few days catching up on the last year while they gave me a local’s tour of the city.
Doha is a unique place. The city is home to the vast majority of Qatar’s 2 million residents. Of those 2 million, only 250,000 are Qatari citizens. The rest are either expatriate Western knowledge workers that keep the country’s petro-economy humming or laborers (primarily Indian) imported to construct the massive infrastructure and building projects that dot the city. Combined with the country’s conservative religious culture, the imbalance between citizens and foreigners creates a tempestuous mix rife with socio-cultural tensions.
With Kristen confined to the city with a tight deadline and the imminent arrival of son #2 (Congrats, you two), Craig and I decided to explore Qatar’s non-Doha offerings over the Eid holiday. After returning from a quick trip to Oman (more on this in a separate post), we took off for a U.S.-style road trip around the country. It turns there was quite a bit to see.
We headed south from Doha toward the vast desert that extends to Saudi Arabia. An hour and half out of the city the road ended in an endless sea of sand. We dropped the pressure in the tires and careened from dune to dune for several hours until we arrived at the inland sea that marks the Saudi border.
We then turned back to the northwest and drove clear across the country to a beach town called Zekreet. We found a nice beach front campsite and set up shop for the night. We feasted for dinner on a small flock of halal quail grilled on our home-made beach grill.
The next morning we took off on a whirlwind trip around the rest of the country’s major sights. We began with the Al Shahaniya Camel Race track, where hundreds of camel were being put through their paces. It’s nice to know that instead of little boys, the jockeys are now little robots programmed to swing a whip.
We continued north and toured the Al Zabarah Archeological Site, a World Heritage Site that contains the remains an 18th century pearl diving town. Next, we visited Jabal Al-Jassasiya, a nondescript site that surprisingly contains nearly 900 ancient petroglyphs.
We made it back to Doha with nearly 2000 kilometers under our belt and a lot of confidence that we had seen just most of what non-Doha Qatar had to offer. After that, all that was left for me was a few more days of relaxing poolside and spending time with my friends before I headed toward Kathmandu to complete the fourth hike on my itinerary.