Introducing Khor al-Adaid
Without a doubt, the major natural attraction in Qatar is the beautiful ‘inland sea’ of Khor al-Adaid, near the border with Saudi Arabia. Often described as a sea or a lake, the khor is in fact neither: rather it is a creek surrounded by silvery crescents of sand (known as barchan). All sand dunes look wonderful in the late afternoon sun, but those of Khor al-Adaid take on an almost mystical quality under a full moon when the sabkha (salt flats) sparkle in the gaps between the sand.
While a night under the stars on a camping expedition is a special experience in the right company, not everyone goes to the area to enjoy the tranquillity. Sand skiing, quad-biking and 4WD racing compete with the time-honoured picnic and a song, much to the consternation of some and the pleasure of others. The area is big enough, thankfully, to satisfy both, although environmental concerns are being expressed as more and more travel agencies make the area the central attraction of their tours.
This region is only accessible by 4WD, and independent travellers should accompany someone who knows the area and really can drive a 4WD. Being stuck in the sand is no fun after the first hour and in summer is very dangerous. If you’re determined to do it yourself, make sure you have at least a box of water bottles on board for each passenger, a map and compass, very clear directions of the best route currently navigable, a tow rope and a shovel. If you get stuck don’t dig: let out the air in the tyres and return to the nearest petrol station immediately to reinflate.
Going on an organised tour is probably the safest way to see Khor al-Adaid; overnight tours often include folkloric entertainment and a barbecue, as well as camping equipment. Rates vary but a six- to seven-hour day excursion usually costs around QR625 per person for two people; add another QR100 per person for an overnight trip.