Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ops Jalan Sakan - Duneful Doha

Part1 of our Ops Jalan Sakan (Mission:Travel-alot) - Duneful Doha

Since we (tentatively) have 6 or 7 months left to our stay here in the Middle East (and we dont know if and when we'll come back again), we decided to launch 'Ops Jalan Sakan' or 'Mission:Travel-alot', where the objective is to explore at least one new part of this peninsula per month.
We decided to launch this mission with a trip to Doha, Qatar for a duneful weekend, right after we got back from our Hajj. Lucky for us, Qataris were having a 3-day weekend starting on Thursday (their weekends usually start on Fridays) so it was just nice for us.

We arrived in Doha just in time for dinner on Wednesday, and woke up really early the next morning to meet up with the rest of the 11-car convoy at Seafront, Doha at 8am. I met other Malaysians in Qatar and was delighted to discover Suria, whose father was good friends with my father in law. We've never met them in Alor Setar, but had to meet them in Qatar, of all places. Taufik deflated our car's tyres to create more traction on the slippery sand of the dunes.

The drive towards Khor Al-Adaid (look it up) wasn't that treacherous. There were plenty of dunes to gett stuck in, but as long as you keep a steady driving speed and dont stop or accelerate suddenly, you shouldnt face any problems. We were lucky to be guided not only by people who have driven there before (and therefore would know the terrain well, or at least have previously proven safe routes stored in their GPS), but also by a local (a friend of one of the malaysians) who showed us a safe route. Driving in the sand dunes on your own is not advisable not only because there would be no one to help you if you get stuck, but also because you can never tell how steep a ridge might be and where they are and you do not want to get caught teetering over one!

We had a picnic by the in-land sea, which is actually a lagoon that creeps in land in between south-eastern-most part of Saudi and the south-western part of the Qatar peninsula. From where we were picnicking, we could see the other side of the lagoon, which is in Saudi territory. I'm sure there's a way to get there from Saudi, but we don't know how and Qatar is 'smaller' and therefore easier to reach Khor Al-Adaid from.
After a picnic of Nasi Lemak and Fried Rice and two types of fried chicken and yummy malaysian cakes, the kids went for a dip into the freezing waters while the parents try to figure out how to adjust the tents and tarpaulins so that it doesnt fly away. When the kids had their fill of splashing about, they changed into dry clothes and rolled around in the sand for a bit while parents took pictures. I noticed that almost every family had an SLR of one model or another. Seems like a trend these days. (Not complaining, just noticing). But when you come to these kinda places, you *would* want to capture the moment the best you could, wouldn't you?

We explored the dunes around the inland sea a little bit more before we decided to head home. We went to the part of the dunes that looks over the lagoon, and on the way back helped a few people who got stuck in the sand. Taufik, whom, I guess, were feeling like this would be the last time he would be able to go dune bashing, tried to hit almost every bump he could find and drive up on the side of dunes just for the thrill of it. When we saw Lollies' husband drive their car down a steep dune, we were hesitant to try at first, but my boys were complaining about how I wish they were in the other car, so I held on to izani, tightened my seatbelts, and said "Rawk On".
As the car neared the edge and the edge dissapeared and all we could see was the sky and the tiny, tiny horizon, I felt like I was at the very top of a very steep rollercoaster ride, except this was not a rollercoaster ride. This was a car that is not secured to any tracks and there was no computer program that created this ride and no engineers manning it and controlling it to make sure nothing bad happens. As the car tilted over the ridge I felt like falling through the windshield and all I could hear were the boys screaming "wooohoooooo!!!!!" (and I think I screamed too, but I wasnt sure it was out of excitement or fear) and Lollies' lover's voice on the walkie talkie telling Taufik to "keep the steering straight keep the steering straight". What felt like forever was actually quite a short ride to the bottom of the dune. Of course someone said "Let's do it again!" but the sun was already setting...

The next day after Friday prayers we had a quick lunch and headed towards the singing dunes.
We drove down Salwa road as if we were driving back to Saudi, then took the exit to "Mesaieed" and drove on until we could finally see some dunes on the flat and barren rocky terrain. We took a junction labelled "Al-Kurrarah" and headed towards the dunes. It was as if someone and carried dump trucks full of sand and just deposited it on a your gravel driveway, coz the area surronding the dunes were really flat and rocky, and suddenly there were piles and piles and piles of orange sand. The kids instinctly climbed the dunes the moment we shut the car engines, and Lollies' kids showed my kids how to create the sound. I didnt hear much at first (maybe coz their butts were too small? ha ha) but when Taufik gave Ilham the carboot tray to try to slide down the slope with, we could distinctly hear a very low pitched sound. It was almost like a mixture between a hum and a drum. The pitch/tone being very low, like produced by hitting the drum, but it was elongated and vibrated, as if you were running your finger over the skin of the drum.

When you try to produce the sound yourself, the sensation is extraordinary. Just simply sliding down doesn't really produce the sound, you'd have to move quite a fair amount of sand and the movement of sand produces a reverbation that felt like it was coming from deep inside the dune itself, and even after you've stopped moving, it will still produce the sound until no more sand is sliding or moving anymore and everything will become quiet again.
The kids climbed up and slid down the huge dune with such ease, that I thought it'd be the same for me, but let me tell you: I found climbing to the top of the dune harder than performing my Hajj! I kept chanting to myself to have faith and keep on trying everytime I took a few steps up slid down a few more steps down and saw that the top is nowhere nearer. My lungs felt like it was about to burst, my legs felt almost numb from the exertion and also from the coldness of the sand, but Ihsan was right there beside me, cheering me on, telling me "You can do it, Bonda!". At last, when I finally reached the top, I was rewarded with the pink, orange and violet hues of the sun setting over the vast undulating sands of the dessert. Too bad I didn't have the camera with me, and there was no way I would slide down and climb back up to take the picture! After taking in the view, I race down with Ihsan, and was joined halfway in by Lollies, our ample behinds vibrating the sand and giving out hums that I bet, would have echoed loud enough to wake up any scorpinoxes or sandworms lying asleep beneath the dunes.

The evening was colder than we expected it to be, but luckily I married a boy scout who could start a fire using whatever burning material we could find and the car cigarette lighter. Plus, he's much cuter than Bear Grylls, if you ask me. *wink* We happily gathered around the campfire and shared whatever cold food and hot drink that was left and exchanged riddles and jokes, before we packed up and headed for some hot and yummy Thai food.

All in all, it was a duneful weekend and we still had sand in our shoes a week after we got back. Qatar certainly has a lot to offer if you look hard enough. I think I need to plan another trip, maybe this time to explore Zikreet ? :)


  1. Wah bestnye.. reminds me of my trip to Siwa desert..

  2. i wish i was there to listen to the dunes humming when you and lollies were sliding down and vibrating the sands hahahaha

    tapi, seriously, nampak macam best je. ntah bila kiter nak merasa...

  3. Anonymous5:56 PM

    lovely read but the pics. wow lawa!!!!

    i so love the second pic!


  4. Oi! Those are all lovely photos!

  5. Kak Olie,
    Adakah anda merindui padang pasir? *wink*

    Memang Fun!
    SImpan duit so that next holiday can come to Qatar lah, especially while Lollies is still there :) Visa upon entry.

    eh you tak tengok gambar2 ni dalam FB ke?
    I like the second pic as well, boleh leatk caption "Leap of Faith" eheheh.

    The Elusive Mr. R!!!,
    where have you been lah... ?
    I cannot take credit for all of them though. I only took the pictures of the kids jumping off and the bare singing dunes. The first picture (convoy on dunes), tak ingat whether it was me or Taufik. The rest were taken by Taufik.

    Mari mari mari kita ke Qatar!! Kita serang rumah Lollies! :D

  6. pasirnya gak panas ya?? asik banget mainnya.. ikuuuutt dong... :D

  7. The pics are good.
    You have began to master the Nikon.
    Big hugs.

  8. eiiiiii... best nyerrrrrr!!!!

  9. diah,
    Musim sejuk, pasirnya juga sejuk deh.
    mari mari mari kita ke rumah Lollies!

    erks.. not really. Taufik is waaay better at it than me. :(

    Jom? ;)