FOR A DIFFERENT kind of experience, far from the tropical haze and heat, head for a gem of a place among the sand dunes of Qatar in the chill of winter.
In this peninsular Arab country of arid desert and a long Gulf shoreline of beaches and dunes, go past the usual hustle and bustle of the country’s popular Sealine Beach, and head into the desert of Khor Al Udeid.
This is the magical place where locals and expats go, a natural Disneyland of soft sand where the rides are four-wheel drives and ATVs, instead of roller coasters and spinning teacups.
Experiencing Qatar’s desert in winter is something you will never forget. If you’ve ever been camping, odds are it’s always been in a wooded area or maybe even your own backyard, but here in the deserts of Qatar, it’s a whole other affair.
The perfect time to kick back with your travel entourage is when the temperature drops – from October to May – and you can feel the warmth of the fiery bonfire flame gently lick your exposed skin, that is, if it’s not already bundled up in thick, thermal outfits.
Khor Al Udeid, also known as the Inland Sea, is a favourite mainly due to its distance from the usual flock of tourists willing to wander only as far as Sealine Beach.
Before you begin your hour-long off-road drive to Khor Al Udeid, take your fill of the traditional tourist experience, and enjoy a camel ride.
Camels draped in multicoloured fabric serve as a vibrant pop of colour against the desert background. Whether for a short ride or a snap with these gentle ‘ships of the desert’, it makes for a right start to your desert adventure.
There are also safari packages into the desert, where you can opt for a group adventure of a full-on Arabian camping experience, or just a barbecue/picnic where sand dunes meet the sea.
After the exhilarating off-road drive, look around and you’ll probably find only a couple of other vehicles – which means total privacy.
One of the first things you’ll also notice when you enter the desert is that as far as your eyes can see, the horizon is only a silky stretch of sand and dunes, contrasted by the night sky looking like a blanket weaved from hundreds and thousands of twinkly bright stars.
Unless you have cameras specifically for night-time shooting, the breathtaking sky might not make an appearance in your photographs; just make sure to be there by sundown for the perfect photography glow.
That awe-inducing sight will definitely make a lasting impression on your mind, especially if you have somebody special to share it with.
Grab a couple of rugs and be prepared to cosy up, because there’s arguably no better feeling than being buried under a sea of blankets when the air is extra cool, and you start falling asleep under that vast expanse of sky.
With Doha’s desert charm offering an experience unlike any other, it will probably take you a while to warm up to other holiday destinations.
But fret not, you’ll have plenty to discover while in Qatar, and at least your Instagram feed will be on fire.