Friday, April 6, 2012

Dune Bashing Doha Style

Sand dunes…well…they’re sandy…they come in all sizes…there are a lot of them…and people drive over them, at…well…high rates of speed. Tires spinning, fishtailing, sliding…not for the week at heart. Hmmm…then what in the world was I doing there?
They bill it as an “unforgettable ride” – that’s the truth! The tamely say “you travel over the Golden Dunes…” Huh! Hardly the description I would use. You careen up the side of a rather steep sand dune at a very high rate of speed, the car tilting crazily as everyone is screaming. The driver masterfully (thank goodness) keeps the car moving forward, side-wards, slip-sliding its way across the path. The next dune appears, the car slews around, slides across the shifting sands, and roars up the dune to catch up with the lead car. The two cars move, side-by-side, drivers laughing and cheering, cars drifting together and apart. We spin around at the edge of a dune, and proceed to slide, backwards, down the dune…the lead car following us down…3 inches in front of us! Yet more dunes challenge the drivers to try daring stunts, more speed, more curves, sliding, careening over hills, slopes, dancing the edges of the dunes.It's a free for all out there!
Three hours later we finally arrived at the inland sea, a restful stopping point where everyone could get out of the car – I had to pry my fingers off the bar I had been holding onto. The water was wet, cool and refreshing – though a bit too cool to swim. It is the cool season still – though I realize for most of you this is warmer than you ever see. It’s all relative.
We piled back into the car for a final hour of sliding around the dunes until we reached our camp. The camp was spectacular. Bedouin tents were set up around the enclosure, filled with the traditional pillows along the walls and carpets covering the floor. With the door closed, they proved to be quite warm and snug. We did have an untraditional swimming pool and long snaking pathways out to strategically placed seats along the sea. It seemed funny to have everything up on stilts – it’s a desert after all – but it turns out that in the late summer, the inland sea moves inland and floods the whole area. The raised paths are welcome then as the inland sea meets the camp.
I mentioned hours worth of traveling out to the camp, hours of roaming around the dunes. Well…the next morning our drivers came to pick us up at 7:00 – we were supposed to be back in town by 9:00 and I knew it was close to 1.5 hours from the entry to the dunes back to the school. I wondered how in the world they would manage it. I found out…it took less than 30 minutes to get from the camp to the entry point…even including a bit of running up and down and along the dunes and racing each other. We had no idea that we had actually covered so little distance. 

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