Qatar might not sound like a travel and leisure destination to you, but for me, back in 2007 there was no better place to be. I needed a week off of work. I needed to get away. You might say, to me, Qatar was the top destination on travel list.
You also might say Qatar was the only option.
And, the trip there was free.
Upon seeing my accommodations, I inquired about the available day trips I could take. There were a number that I signed up for and took that week.
Only one, for the cost of $60, took me on an excursion to a destination unknown. The description at the front desk was vague. It described a dune surfing adventure along with a beach stop and delicious meal to conclude the trip. I was skeptical, but needed to see for myself. This is not exactly the excursion desk on a Carnival Cruise.
Our chariots awaited us in Nissan Pathfinders. The drivers instructed us to pick a car, any car, as we boarded not exactly knowing where we were going. I wish I could remember the exact conversation with the driver. I’m pretty sure he was not even Qatari. Like many workers in Qatar, the U.A.E. or Kuwait, they brought over from much poorer countries to work for a period of time at much higher wages than their local economy. Pakistan and India notably provide a larger base of English speaking workers. Countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and Indonesia provided low cost labor for large construction projects. From the few videos I did take, much of the attention of the driver seems to be paid to the music selection. It seemed to be the singular most important thing to him. In one video, Beyonce is playing. In the other, it’s Linkin Park. One hand is on the wheel, and the other is trying to impress us with his taste in music. Don’t let the media fool you on what people around the world think of Americans. You’ll be surprised how many people love American culture, movies/fashion/music, while disliking only politics. Even in America, most people dislike politics.
Once we hit the actual dunes though, it didn’t take long for me to realize how good my driver was. He wasn’t exactly a stunt driver, but I could tell by the time we began going up and down large dune slopes, some almost the slope of a roller coaster drop, he knew exactly what would impress us. There was a certain joy I think in getting a reaction from us. Before the last drop, we parked for some pictures before going to the Meesaid Sealine Beach Resort.
It might not look like it, but you could have rolled me off that sand dune. If you look closely, you can see tire treads of the cars that drive up and down the dunes.
So there we were. What better way to celebrate surviving a sand dune roller coaster? How about jellyfish. Lots of them. So much, there was a jellyfish bottle spray to use if we got stung by one. Never in my beach travels had the jellyfish been the actual attraction. I ventured in the ocean, only in part to say I stepped foot and “swam” in the Persian Gulf. I basically sat most of the time reading the paranoid Michael Crichton novel, State of Fear.
Then came time for the meal. It was much better than what I expected. It was kebabs, pilaf, and some sort of chopped salad. The kebabs came in three different flavors: chicken, lamb, and a “mystery mix.” Whenever presented with the “mystery mix” you have to sort of go with the “destination unknown” theme and just try it. It was good and I ate all of it, to include the grilled jalapeno.
After a couple hours we departed back to our accommodations. There were many other “adventures” that week, but nothing gave me the same moment of solitude that eating kebabs on a beach in the Persian Gulf did.
I still remember it over a decade later.