For most people, Qatar – the country – is synomymous with Doha – the main city. But there is more to Qatar, and there are memories to be made driving out to explore.Your first stop should be the camel racetrack where the camels are penned and trained.
You can plan to see the racedays, but you appreciate the care given to these prized animals every day.
This feels like the Qatar before petroleum wealth changed everything. Sharing the road, carry on past a strange little zoo.
You’ll notice interesting structures – dovecotes, private fortresses, abandonned mosques, overground pipelines – but not very many.
The desert and coastline are really desserted for the most part.
Drive along to the crumbling fortress of Al Jumail and imagine why this was once strategic.
And on to isolated Zubara fort and archaeological site.
Suddenly the road ends at Al Ruwais where vivid blue sea contrasts sharply with the muted brown of the desert.
Ruwais, with its big fish market, is a reminder that Qatar’s history and economy are tied, not just to petroleum and the desert, but to the sea as well.
The west coast back down to Doha has some interesting historic villages and mangrove swamps.
If you are very lucky, you may be invited to a private desert camp.
You may help search for the elusive desert truffles.
But stop for a minute to look closely at the beauty at your feet.
Surrounding Doha are a number of small cities, huge industrial sites and chemical plants, military bases and colleges – all linked by super highways. But memories are best made on the forgotten backroads.
There are few things as beautiful as watching the moon rise over the desert, turning everything pink.