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Friday, April 06, 2007

A trip to the Inland Sea

We stopped at the top of what appeared to be a sheer drop. “No, no, no,” said one of the lady passengers. Hassan, our driver, looked round with a grin. Then he gunned the car forward down the steepest slope I have ever been on.

We were on a desert trip to the Inland Sea. It had nearly notDriving on sand dunes taken place at all – just a few hours before we were due to leave QIT tours cancelled our trip because of “a larger booking.” Luckily, Arabian adventures proved able to organize a trip at a moment’s notice.

The Inland Sea, or Khor Al Daid, is a huge inlet surrounded by giant rolling sand dunes. Together with these sand dunes, it’s definitely Qatar’s most impressive natural feature.

There are no roads leading to the Khor Al Deid, you have to go off-road. If you decide to go there by yourself, make sure you go in a convoy – and bear in mind that you car insurance will be invalid off-road.

We chose to go with a tour group. QIT had asked us if we wanted extreme driving, and we'd said no. Arabian tours hadn't given us the option of saying no, which is why we were now sliding down a sand dune at an impossible angle.

The driver did things with the car that I had not known were possible. The experience can bestDesert Flower be likened to that of a roller coaster. We shot up steep sand dunes, skirted edges of sheer drop-offs and slid sideways down seemingly vertical mountains of sand. At several times we were scared stiff – but our driver knew what he was doing, and at no time did he lose control of the car.

After a helter skelter trip through the dunes, we arrived at the Inland Sea. This is an area rich in sea life – among other species, rare dugongs or sea cows can be found here. The water is incredibly clear, and across the sea you can see Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, it was so vast it was impossible to get a photograph which truly reflected its size.

After our stop here, we roared off again. This time our journey included a high speed trip over salt flats. At one point we stopped to examine flowers – friends who have been here for yearsSaluki hounds out training in the desert remarked they had never seen the desert as green as it is now.

Our next stop was a camp by the sea. There wasn’t a lot to do here, so we lounged on the cushions provided and waited for the staff to prepare a barbecued lunch.

On our way back our breath was taken away once more by the sand dunes rolling away before us. Some people had an even better view – para gliders were drifting high above us in the cloudless blue sky.

The trip cost us 265 riyals per person, and this included the meal and drinks at lunch time.

Some tour groups:

Arabian Adventures Tel. + 974 436 1461 Mobile: + 974 550 7337
Qatar International Adventures: Tel. +974 467 6190 Mobile: +974 552 7225
Black Pearl: +974 435 7333 +974 555 1169

Looking across the salt flats
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