Cruising Doha's Bays

The beginning of our late-November trip to Doha, Qatar, was blessed with beautiful weather. While the rain, sleet, and snow of late autumn pounded my Canadian compatriots in Toronto, I sported a t-shirt and a big smile, immersed in the more bearable 25C (77F) temperature of Doha. The timing was perfect for a dhow expedition.

Dhows are the traditional Arab sailing vessels, which once carried resilient ancestral Qatari pearlers to the rich oyster fields of the Persian Gulf. Today, the ships have become symbols for the city of Doha and are one of the few visible remainders of Qatar's life before natural gas. For tourists, a dhow voyage offers the perfect opportunity to see Doha's modern skyline and to escape the hustle, bustle, and traffic of the city.

The general specs of our chartered dhow reflected what I had observed about Doha: a constant battle between appearances and reality. Featuring a wooden body, and even a bowsprit, the dhow certainly looked authentic from the outside. However, upon closer observation you could see that there was electricity, a washroom, and no masts. Like the other heritage attractions of Doha, the dhow was a reproduction.

As we raced towards our island destination, we sat on comfortable cushions, bathed in the sun, and enjoyed cold drinks. Upon arrival at the island, which was little more than a sandbar with a sole sunbaked hut, we went swimming in the teal-coloured Gulf waters and were treated to a delicious meal consisting of rice, salad, hummus, and various types of kebab. There were other dhows moored around us, and we learned that in addition to swimming it was also possible to rent jet-skis, inflatable banana boat tows, or fishing gear.

After relaxing for approximately an hour, it was time to return to port. Our trip back was uneventful, and I chose to lie in the golden Arabian sunlight to take a powernap. Upon arrival at port, I felt relaxed and jubilant.

The dhow trip is recommended to anyone visiting Doha. Although there are other locations to view parts of Doha's emerging skyline, the dhow is the only way to view it all at once and from several directions. Furthermore, on a hot day there is no better way to escape Qatar's heat and dust. So picture yourself putting your feet up, cold drink in hand, while the soothing Gulf winds blow across your face. Your dhow awaits!

View a video of our dhow cruise.

Thinking of taking a dhow cruise?

There are several tour companies operating in Doha. We happened to travel with Qatar International Adventures during our November 2011 visit. Their package:

  • Four-hour cruises, which start at whatever time you want, on a boat that can hold up to 50 people.
  • For less than 15 people, the charge would be QR575 (US$158) per person
  • For 15 or more people, the charge would be QR230 (US$63) per person
  • Cold drinks and a delicious meal are provided.

Don't want a four-hour trip? There are also several dhows moored along the Corniche, which offer short, 15-20 minute cruises in the inner harbour. These cost QR45 ($12), but the captains will haggle.

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