Walking into a desert

Qatar is such a beautiful country. In terms of architecture, cleanliness and safety there are few countries in the world in it’s league. While it is a fairly small gas rich nation that only has one city, a lot has changed for them over last decade, and there’s still a lot more to come with the upcoming Football World Cup in Doha.

Doha is the only city in Qatar but does not take up the entire country.

Doha is definitely beautiful city that’s fairly easy to visit the whole year round. You can check out my article for Doha here. While most of Qatar’s citizens and tourists stay in Doha, what most people forget to realise is that Doha does not make up the entire county.

Doha has stunning architecture. This is the Museum of Islamic Art.

Qatar is literally one huge desert, with a city based on one side of it. If you look on the map, you will see many other areas around the country with roads becoming less dense as you go further away from the city.

But what’s in those areas? Are there small rural villages in the desert? There’s certainly not much on the internet. So we decided that we have to take a look for ourselves.

There are a few attractions scattered around, and we had a car that we rented to drive around Qatar ourselves and see as much as possible for the whole day.

While driving in Doha, the desert is the last thing you will think off, but as you start driving away from Doha, a lot of things change. The tall buildings and stunning architecture start to get less and less. The beautifully decorated gardens slowly start to disappear. The perfectly wide and brand new roads start to get narrower and less maintained. Then once you see it, it stays. Sand. Everywhere.

None of us had ever been to a desert before. Usually I associate sand with the beach. Bright skies and blue water, but this was very different. No sound of the sea and sand in every direction that you look.

One of the more famous attractions in the area is the Al Zubara Fotress, which was built as a military fortress in 1938 and is a museum today. Many people take tours to visit this, and it is sort of accessible from a direct route from Doha.

The Al Zubara Fortress is an old Military fortress that is a museum today.

There’s one attraction that caught my eye as soon as I saw it. I came across it and I had to see it for myself while in Qatar. The Zekreet Rock Formations. Looking at it from the map, it seemed easy enough and something that we had to do.

There are lots of areas marked on the map that are out of Doha on the way to the Zekreet rock formations.

As we drove through all the areas on the map, there were no rural villages at all. Barren lands with a few industrial areas. Almost no shops at all. It all seemed the same no matter where we were out of Doha.

As we got closer to the Zekreet rock formations on our navigator, we could see it in the distance towards our right while we were on the highway. A few more minutes of driving, and our navigator asked us to turn right. Except there was one huge problem. There was no road. Just a path on very hard sand that you can see many vehicle tracks on.

We didn’t come this far to come this far. So, we decided to drive on the very tough sand, and it went well for a few minutes. Then the sand started becoming softer. The tracks on the sand started becoming deeper, and that was it. We couldn’t go any further with our car. You definitely had to have a 4×4 or off road vehicle to get past this point.

So after having a discussion for a few minutes, we came to the most logical solution that anyone in this situation would come to. Leave the car where it is and walk 😉

We opened the door of the car. Utter silence. Sand as far as we could see in every direction. The vehicle tracks in front of us going straight towards our goal. How much further? We had no idea.

We started our walk following the vehicle tracks. After a few minutes, the excessive heat started getting to us. Walking on dry sand with no shade at all and the bright sun directly on us. None of us where speaking for some reason. It wasn’t out of fear or nervousness, maybe just because of how hot and dry it was.

After about fifteen minutes more of walking, we noticed that the tracks were starting to disappear. Our car was far away and beyond our view, but according to my calculations, the Zekreet Rock formations should be a few minutes more just ahead. So we continued walking. No more vehicle tracks. Just our fresh shoe prints on the soft hot sand. With of course no other shoe prints around.

After a few more minutes we all came to the conclusion that we were lost.

We did have our phones with us, so we knew that we wouldn’t die, but the thought of being lost in a desert was now a reality for us.

About ten minutes later..

The Zekreet Rock Formations.

We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. We had found the Zekreet Rock formations! Objective achieved! There were so many of them. We could have spent the whole day admiring them, but there was something at the back of our minds. We would at some point have to make our way back to our car.

So we started following our tracks back. It was all a perfect plan until the tracks started disappearing. All gone. There was a slight wind which levelled everything out. So we looked around us. Flat sand in every direction. No car. No Zekreet rock formations. No tracks.

So after much discussing, we came to a conclusion of the direction that we thought our car will be in. Or something.

How far away was the car? How long would the walk take? None of us had any idea.

Twenty minutes later..

We were officially lost in the desert.

At this point we had the great idea of using our navigator on our phones to get us close to a road. The short answer is, it did not help.

After about another ten minutes of walking we had come across one of the best things we had ever seen in our lives! Our car! Parked very far away in the distance at a different angle of the one we were walking at.


We were almost running towards the car. When we got to it. It was the first sight of something that was actually not sand for a few hours. The air-con felt like heaven. It was such a thrilling moment! Except there was one slight problem. No tracks.

Just us, the car and a whole lot of sand. No direction to go in. Back to square one.

Fortunately it wasn’t like the rest of our day.

When we got onto the road with our navigator working again, it was celebrations again!

But this time the celebrations lasted forever. We had an experience unlike anything we dreamed off. Straight from a horror movie. This day ended being our highlight in Qatar and the first thing that comes to mind whenever anyone mentions the word.

When people look at a destination, their first thought is “What do people usually do here?”. What we did today was something WE wanted to do. An authentic experience that turned into an adventure. The very adventure that we define as our own greatest of experiences.

If I could go back in time and take a direct route to the Zekreet rock formations, I wouldn’t.

Your experiences forge you into the person you are isn’t it?

Shuayb Ismail

Shuayb Ismail is an entrepreneur, frequent traveller and athlete with a passion for self-development and improvement.


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