Adventure playground: to romp in the sandpit to Qatar

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To romp in the sandpit to Qatar

Adventure playground: to romp in the sandpit to Qatar-

Desolate spectacle: a Toyota Landcruiser plows through a Qatari sand dune

Source: Hakati / Hans Richard Edinger

In the desert of the emirate of Qatar, tourists can let off steam behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle. The dusty spectacle behind the wheel of a Toyota Landcruiser or Porsche Cayenne is even affordable.

W.The sea shines from below, but there is no way from up here. The edge of the huge sand dune is the last barrier before the abyss. This is how skydivers should feel before they jump. "Drive off!" Orders Karim from the passenger seat. "Hold it at an angle, 45 degrees to the slope." In theory a piece of cake, but what if the worst fears materialize? Overturning, rolling meter wide and deep in a 2.5 ton off-road vehicle. Hopefully sand is soft. And finally we’re buckled up. But trigger the airbags?

Fortunately, the Toyota Landcruiser stays on all four wheels. Just like some Pathfinders from Nissan, an Escalade from Cadillac, a Porsche Cayenne or Mercedes GL. The paradise for off-road fans is in the emirate of Qatar, a good 50 kilometers south of the capital Doha, where the most recent UN climate conference ended with poor results.

Doesn’t really go together: environmentalists and four-wheel drive enthusiasts. In the huge area that extends in the south to the border with Saudi Arabia, it is a popular sport for men to make deep tracks in the sand. “You can’t break anything here,” says Karim, who works six days a week as a tour guide and off-road vehicle driving instructor. “Everything is just sand and a few withered bushes.” Qatar is one of the driest countries, with less than ten centimeters of precipitation per year and square meter.

In the Umm Said, the last station with an asphalt road, the native Indian initially releases a good two thirds of the air pressure. “You don’t get far with bulging tires,” he says as he tampered with the valves on the test Toyota. Pure physics: the wider the deflated tire, the lower the pressure per square centimeter that the weight of the five-meter car presses onto the ground.

A liter of gasoline for 20 cents

A noble part, this Landcruiser. Lots of fine leather, wood applications on the steering wheel, automatic lever and dashboard. Six small water bottles fit into the cooled compartment in the center console. Under the hood a four-liter six-cylinder with around 200 hp. The gasoline engine has a lot of trouble with the monster on solid roads. With the strictly monitored speed limit of 100 km / h, that doesn’t matter.

The high consumption of a good 18 liters doesn’t care either: The Qataris hold two world records: the highest CO2 emissions per inhabitant and the highest per capita income. A liter of gasoline costs 20 cents. Cars with large engines are preferred. And the Japanese all-wheel drive classic is by far the most popular SUV. Its prices start at around 70,000 euros. This large Landcruiser is also available in Germany, albeit with a slightly different body.

All land cruisers are all-rounders in the field. Sophisticated electronics help to maintain traction, at least until the limits of physics are reached. And the Toyota shifts that significantly: It can do gymnastics over embankments and only threatens to tip over at 42 degrees incline. When instructed, you first have to steer diagonally to the slope.

With the cooler ahead

The weight of the car pushes down into the valley, the tires press against it. “Don’t steer away from the slope,” Karim had previously taught, “you have to outsmart the danger.” The cooler has to be turned downhill. Because the sand is so deep, it acts like a brake block. Then drive across again until the next threatening tip-over.

This is repeated until you have reached the bottom of the beach, can take a deep breath and use the cool breeze of the sea wind to dry the sweat of fear. Admittedly, after a little practice, adults have as much fun as children sledding on the local mountain. Karim’s words are confirmed again and again: "A car like this can do a lot more than the driver trusts himself."

Everyone meets again downstairs. Dozens of SUVs park in front of Bedouin-style tents, waiting for the barbecue. Because for tourists, romping around in the vast desert is well organized. You have to invest almost 85 euros to be on the road for a day. An Arabic dinner with non-alcoholic drinks, bathing fun in the sea and showers with hot water included.

Improvements up to the soccer World Cup in 2022

If you feel like it, you can also thunder off with quads or look for deceleration between the humps of rather apathetic camels. The idea behind this is to pass the time for those who change trains. Because the flights of the domestic airline Qatar from Asia or Africa land in the morning. It doesn’t go on to Europe until after midnight.

"Every time I make a stopover in Qatar, I treat myself to a day of off-road driving in the desert," reports a businessman from the Luneburg Heath, who is on his way back from Shanghai to Hamburg. He is wearing his business outfit and has only taken off his tie. Desert tourists look otherwise different. At home he would be fined many euros if he were to crush the heather off the beaten track with his jeep.

The red and gold shimmering sun sinks into the sea, on the horizon the flickering fires of the gas extraction systems point the way back to real life. Mechanics with ringed, flexible air hoses make the tire pressure suitable for asphalt again for around five euros so that the wheels on the motorway to Doha are not tumbled off the rims. The desert company is still being expanded: "When the soccer World Cup takes place here in 2022," says tour guide Karim, "we will organize everything here even better and offer real driving schools."

Information about the desert tours: www.qatarairways.com/global/en/qatar-tours.page

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