The odd beauty (and odd guide) of Khor Al-Adaid

Camel in the empty quarter

Blonde muzzled to keep her from saying something inappropriate in Qatar

When Qatar Airways graciously gave us two business class tickets to the Maldives we chose to spend a few days in Doha to break up our trip and experience somewhere new. But as Brunette, the trusted researcher, began to look for activities in Doha she found little that sounded intriguing beyond the Museum of Islamic Art. Our attention span for museums is similar to a 6 year old boy’s interest in a speech about morality so we knew we needed more to fill our time.

Then Brunette came across comments on several travel forums about Khor Al-Adaid, or the Inland Sea. We have gills that are better than our lungs so anything with the word “sea” holds attraction. Also, Brunette had mistakenly been told that Khor Al-Adaid is a UNESCO World Heritage site and we love to see those. It turned out that Khor Al-Adaid had merely been a UNESCO bridesmaid but never a bride. It was nominated to become a UNESCO site in 2008 but, for reasons they have not confided in us, it never gained that designation.

We contacted a tour provider and offered them the supreme honor of hosting us on a tour of the Inland Sea. They accepted the honor. For purposes of disclosure we have to tell you that our outing was comped. For purposes of discretion we won’t say the name of the tour operator as we had a creepy, bizarro guide who played loud, stunningly pornographic music (it shocked Blonde!) at full volume, appeared to suffer from a severe and untreated mood disorder, supplied no information at all about what we were seeing and inexplicably had our group switch cars with another tour midway through the trip. So, no, we aren’t going to be telling you to use them. We have some integrity!


Camel who clearly had some leg positioning issues (and possibly MERS)

When we reached the edge of the desert, which is the Khor Al-Adaid, we participated in the obligatory Middle Eastern thing of showing the tourists Bedouin digs (and camels) while the driver lets pressure out of the tires. We had been through this the previous year in Dubai so were no longer fascinated by the process. The drivers deflate the tires so they can control the car during the subsequent dune bashing which is thrilling, silly and a vomitron for anyone with motion sickness tendencies.


Driver with possible deflated ego (and many other issues) deflating tires on our 4 wheel drive vehicle

And the dune bashing commenced! Bashing involves driving up gigantic sand dunes then going over the top where the passengers (and distressingly the driver too) can see nothing but air until they land on more sand (best case). The alternative is sliding madly down the side of a dune in a dust cloud.

Khor Al-Adaid

Sliding in a dust cloud down the dunes with lots of screaming from the passengers

When we reached the much-anticipated Inland Sea (where, per the tour operator’s website, we could take a “refreshing swim”) we quickly discovered that the water was cold, moving very swiftly and there wasn’t anywhere to change into a swim suit. We had anticipated a lovely swim in a desolate but protected area. Not happenin’.

Instead we got a guide who became more agitated than he already had been, informed us that another man was his brother (so what if that man was a different nationality and unaware of their relationship?) and that we needed to change and move to the other car and that man’s passengers had to go to our car. This all seemed very odd and hardly matched our original vision of us in a J. Crew catalog photo shoot in an exotic location.


The unmatched brother of our guide

But the other man at least had a personality (and a sense of humor!) and took the opportunity to inform us that the land mass we could see across the Inland Sea was Saudi Arabia. Blonde may or may not have given a middle finger salute to Saudi Arabia due to her strong opinions about their treatment of women. She does not plan to reveal if this finger salute occurred or not. (It totally happened.)

So the swim hadn’t happened, the finger salute had and, as a consolation prize, the sand formations near the “beach” were really beautiful.

Sand formations

Sand formations

Then we saw a man paragliding over the dunes. Extra credit!


Paragliding over the desert

Our outing was drawing to a close but we did get a pause to observe and photograph the spectacular sunset.

Sunset in Khor Al_Adaid, Qatar

Sunset in Khor Al-Adaid, Qatar

We enjoyed the beauty of the desert sunset almost as much as we enjoyed jumping out of the vehicle and scurrying through the lobby when our creepy driver deposited us back at our hotel. We let the concierge handle (quite deftly) the guide’s claims that our trip had not been comped although we had written proof that it had all been prearranged.

Our swim turned out to be in wine at our hotel. Girls have to do what girls have to do.



    • says

      Thanks for stopping by! Right now Qatar isn’t much to see because it’s a huge construction site getting ready to host the World Cup in a couple years. I’d wait and go in a few years when there’s more to see and less traffic congestion as public transportation is virtually non-existent in such a rich country!

  1. Sarah says

    Such a shame you didn’t get to see Qatar they way we have. It’s been our home for the last 81/2 years and although there have been ups and downs we have had a wonderful time. We raised our two children. There so much more to qatar than what you’ve experienced 😉

    • says

      We only saw a tiny bit of Qatar and certainly don’t have any of the depth of knowledge you have! But it didn’t seem to have much natural beauty and there was so much construction that it was a real pain to get around. Did you send your children to an international school? We spoke with three sisters from Doha at our hotel restaurant one night and they were lovely but said it’s sort of boring because you get married, have kids and shop all the time! They were lovely and well educated and the one who wasn’t married has a job that sounded interesting but we couldn’t help wondering if the country wastes the talents of women by not having them in the workforce (other than foreign nationals).

    • says

      To be brutally honest I wouldn’t put it too high on my list! We were there because of free tickets but there isn’t much to see or do at this point. Go to Dubai instead – a lot more to do and you can still go on a desert dune bashing trip and have fun.

    • says

      The guy was creepy but, hey, it’s good material and we’re fine so what the heck! It was still cool to see the sea and to glare at Saudi Arabia and pretend we were driving. We’re quite mature.

  2. says

    What a bizarre day! Not all press trips are run professionally, and the way you handled this one was spot on. You told the truth without being excessively harsh … kudos to you for that!

    • says

      It wasn’t technically a press trip – just one we had arranged privately and reconfirmed that morning that it was free. It could have gone a lot worse than it did but it went pretty bad as it was!

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