Qatar 2022 | White dunes and adrenaline, ingredients of the desert in the Asian country
Observe the immensity of the white desert and its red sunset, feel the adrenaline when going through its dunes in a 4×4 and surprise yourself with a sea in the middle of the sand, are just some of the wonders that the Qatari desert hides and a must-see for all those who attend the World Cup in Qatar 2022.
The winter season in the desert, known by the locals as Al Enna, starts precisely during the competition. White sand dunes become home to Qataris that they take advantage of to camp or take a bath in one of the few places in the world where the sea enters the desert.
“The desert here is very different from what you imagine. The sand has a much whiter color. It's not like red-orange. So it's quite different than what most people probably expect. Also, it has a lot of spaces that are very firm ground, so it's like driving on a highway,” said Berthold Trenkel, Qatar Tourism Director of Operations.
The main activities that can be done are to cross it in a 4×4 driving at high speed with experienced drivers, camel riding, kite surfing, falcon huntingslide down the dunes on a board or attend a party in a traditional Bedouin tent.
“If you want adrenaline and action, you can go to the desert to drive a 4×4 through the sand dunes or do 'sandboarding' (throw yourself with a board through the dunes). It is an incredible experience. Try to arrive very early in the morning and when I say early, you have to get up and leave the city at 4 in the morning. It's only 60 minutes by car, but enjoying the sunrise in the desert is a magical experience”, he adds.
The Inland Sea or Khor Al Adaid, as the Qataris call it, it is an extraordinary landscape in which the dunes and the sea come together, forming a picture that is difficult to forget.
Located in the southeast of the country and recognized by Unesco as the largest nature reserve in Qatar, it is home to all kinds of wildlife, marine and plant life. You will find turtles, flamingos and, with luck, antelopes or camels.
“The desert faces east, so the sun rises above the water. (…) The normal thing is that we live in cities or maybe we have mountains nearbybut this is something very different”, assures Trenkel.
It is a unique landscape in which stone areas predominateplateaus raised by dunes in contrast with movement and wild nature, which makes its way exuberantly in contact with the water.
The Inland Sea is a large bay about 15 kilometers from north to south and up to 12 kilometers from east to west which connects with Saudi Arabia through a relatively narrow channel. You will be surprised to see that from the Qatari shore you can see, like a mirage in the desert, the immensity of its neighboring country, Saudi Arabia.
The environmental quality of the area allows the life of a variety of extraordinary marine species, many of them endangered such as dugongsa huge vegetarian animal of about 2.5 meters similar to the manatee visible when it comes out to breathe and raises its huge head above the surface of the lagoon.
In the afternoon, when the tide is low, the sun falls reddish, making the dunes change color in a spectacle that is worth enjoying.
The desert and its vegetation has been home to Bedouin tribes, inhabitants considered the origin of the Arab people. There were settlements of farmers and fishermen in the area, a lifestyle that has almost completely disappeared today, with small exceptions of camel herders who take advantage of the plateau areas with pastures.
“For the locals, the desert is something special. It's the most important thing. Especially for locals who like to spend their weekends. And you will find what in local terms are called prefab stores. So think of a trailer, they park in the desert and set up everything like a campsite”, he points out.
Famous for organizing themselves into families and living in rectangular tents made of animal hair, the Bedouin tribes were dedicated to moving through the desert looking for areas for agriculture adapting to the movements of the dunes and the availability of water.
It is in these places where they can revive their nomadic essence: “These camping sites usually work from October-November to March-April. It is a six month season where the weather is beautiful and people like to get away in the desert. Maybe they build a bonfire, but they just enjoy the quiet with their friends. They have a tea or Karak (typical Qatari drink with tea, milk, spices and sugar) or drink an Arabic coffee”, he concludes.
This is a quiet time when you can take the opportunity to search for the country's national animal, the Arabian antelope, which roams the dunes in search of food and drink, despite enduring weeks without drinking water. Recognizable by its white fur and long horns, use to travel long distances and it is an ideal moment to see him roam the solitary landscape of the Qatari desert.
Animals roaming free thanks in part to Operation Antelope, a conservation measure adopted in the country to breed in captivity and release them into the desertsomething that has allowed that there are currently more than 1,000 species of wild antelopes in the Arabian peninsula.
If you want to see each other up close without the arbitrariness of the desert can be visited in the sanctuary of Al-Mahawhich allows you to appreciate this elegant animal and learn about its peculiar way of life and only half an hour's drive west of Doha.
Witness how life adapts to sand, lack of water and high temperatures, and flourishes in this apparently hostile environment, is another of the lessons that tourists can learn from the trip to Qatar 2022 during the World Cup. (EFE)
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