For thousands of years, camping was a way of life for the Bedouin of Qatar, as tribes kept on a constant move across the vast desert, setting up tents and following herds of camel and sheep to greener pastures. Today, there is very little left of that world, and like most long-established traditions, camping has matured with time….
Rewind back 50 years to Qatar where the only way of life was that of the Bedouin. That’s right, not so long ago, Qatar was a vast area of desert inhabited by indigenous tribes, whose proud and resourceful tentdwelling nomads formed a culture that is now one of the founding pillars of the country, playing an integral part in Qatari national identity today. Life and camping back then was simple; enjoyment came from the freedom of living under the stars, using camels as the main mode of transport, and residing in goat-skinned tents as makeshift homes. The lifestyle of the nomadic tribes was essentially a principal building block of Qatari society. Their independence and resourcefulness in the face of harsh environments, illustrates, even to this day, the Arabian code of hospitality, which is to show great respect and honour to guests.
The native Bedouins lived in varied terrain, from the ocean (for pearldiving and fishing), the desert (for grazing areas for their animals), and the oasis (for the farming of dates and vegetables). If we flash-forward to modern day, you can still see many vegetation zones, where trees, reeds, and shrubs like tamarind and mace can grow. These parts are nearer the coast as opposed to the massive sand dunes surrounding Khawr al Udayd, in the southeast. Today there’s little trace left of that precious way of life, with camping evolving to keep in sync with contemporary society needs. Now, taking a trip into the desert is more of a must-do tourist option, or a result of the need to escape mundane daily tasks and the city bustle, and to seek solace in the vast emptiness. Especially during the cooler months of November to March, the Qatari desert becomes a haven for short breaks and holidaymakers. And there are many different ways to go about visiting the desert. Many will find that tour companies offer the best and safest packages, custom designed to suit specific time frames and budgets. Desert safaris are most popular; where people are whisked away in a 4×4 for a thrilling ride over massive sand dunes, either for dinner, dance, and activities in the desert, or an overnight stay.
Some locals, on the other hand, do it differently. Many set up semi permanent winter camps all along the coast. The camps, which are fenced, are licensed by the government and offer the comfort of home with modernday amenities like generators, televisions, electric lighting and more. This experience, aptly dubbed, ‘glamping’ is somewhat of a pimped out version of Bedouin living and a great way for family and friends to enjoy the desert whilst spending quality time together. For those who want a real piece of nomadic life, you’ll have to forgo everyday comforts and get ready to rough it. The best way to do it is to plan your route into the desert with a mobile tent in tow. Pitch your tent under the stars just as the Bedouins would. With the cooler climate and numerous camping spots, it’ never been easier to do this than it is now
WHERE TO SET UP CAMP…
The Qatari desert is full of wonderful places to head out and explore, and the options available might be a bit overwhelming when deciding on where to go and what to see. You can either go for the beaches on the north or western coasts, or dodge that busy area for a bit of peace and quiet and head out to the gravel plains which are home to some of the most beautiful flowers in the country.
Located north of Dukhan, the Ras Abrouq peninsula is a favourite spot for weekend campers who come to enjoy the golden sands and pretty limestone scenery. The place is full of wildlife with plenty of animal sightings including hedgehogs, kangaroo mice, and the sand gazelle.
An hour’s drive from Mesaieed is Inland Sea (Khor al Adaid), Qatar’s most famous and popular camping destination. The country’s southernmost point, the area is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles. The scenery there is breathtaking with towering sand dunes soaring from the water’s edge. At the opposite side of Qatar is Umm Tais National Park which has some the most beautiful sandy beaches, and is where Doha’s kite surfers can be found on the weekend. Offshore, a few small islands surrounded by mudflats can be reached by vehicle when the tide is low, where you can find nesting turtles and stunning mangroves. While you’re in Umm Tais don’t forget to check out the pearling city of Al Zubara, which is only a few kilometers away.
THE BIG TOUR……
QATAR INTERNATIONAL ADVENTURES
Overnight package: This trip will take you to the amazing sand dunes in the south and to the inland sea, which is the natural border to Saudi Arabia. Dune bashing is a popular sports activity in Qatar so join in to see why! The stylish Bedouin camp is where you’ll spend the night, located in an area where you can also enjoy sand boarding, camel rides, quad biking, or simply just swimming. Sit around the bonfire under the night’s sky and listen to traditional music being played. Includes 4×4 jeep with driver, water, soft drinks and BBQ meal, insurance, bathrooms with showers, sand skiing and sand boarding, all activities and clean sleeping bags. Prices vary per person.
GO: Visit www.qia-qatar.com for more information.
ARABIAN ADVENTURES QATAR
Full Day Desert Safari Package– Get ready for seven hours of incredible sights and thrill rides. Your adventure starts with a 75 km drive to the south of Doha passing by all the major sights of the city. A brief stop at Sealine Beach Resort in Meisaeed will get the cars prepared for the exhilarating dunes bashing in store. The drive will then take you to the stunning inland sea of Khor al-Udaid with its white sandy beaches and clear water near the Qatar-Saudi Arabian border.
GO: Visit www.arabianadventuresqatar. com for more information.
Dune Bashing Package – Hold your hats and enjoy the crazy adrenaline-filled ride as you drive over the golden sand dunes. A 4×4 wheel drive vehicle will take you to where the dune meets the ocean where you can get out of the car and go for a quick swim before heading back to the city.
GO: Visit www.qatar-ventures.com for more information.
THE SEVEN GOLDEN RULES OF CAMPING…
- Always pitch your camp in an empty open space far from jutting rocks or steep sandy inclines.
- Pick a clear spot clear of plants to avoid any hazardous fire outbreaks.
- Do not camp in places that are prohibited, the warning signs are there for a reason!
- Before you hit the road make sure you check up on your car for any mechanical problems; tyres, headlights, and battery are the most important.
- Always travel in a convey incase of a breakdown.
- If you’re heading out to the desert a 4X4 is a must!
- Never pass a petrol station without filling up, you never know when the next one will be.
- Don’t go over board with the menu, just take options that are easy and simple to make. Sausages and smores are always a great idea!
- Canned food is always an easy meal and won’t take up too much space in the car.
- If you bring fruits or vegetables pick something that won’t go bad very fast; you don’t want to get stuck with spoilt produce.
- Water is essential for anyone hitting the desert so make sure to stock up on H20 but just don’t foolishly waste it, water will be your best friend out there.
- Remember you’ll need to bring water for both drinking and washing up.
- GPS systems have become a camper’s essential tool but it’s always a safe bet to take a map along just in case the navigation system stops working.
- A compass, shovel, torch, rope, air pump, and Swissknife are fundamental to any camping trip.
- A first aid kit should be prepared in advance with all the basic necessities like band-aids, burn cream, painkillers, and medicines just in case someone gets hurt or sick.
- If you bring along antibiotics with make sure to store them somewhere cool.
- When pitching your tent make sure to clear the ground from any unwanted objects.
- Before leaving and heading back home clean your camping site and put out your fire.