Travel Through Qatar on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Qatar on a Harley (7/1/06 - 14/1/06)
Distance 501 km (443524 km to 444025 km)

This is part of the twelfth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Saudi Arabia

7/1/06 With one week's insurance, $US 11.00 and two on the spot visas $US 15.00 each and about an hour we were greeted by the Qatar Harley riders along with Al-Jazeera TV reporters. A quick interview and we rode into Doha as sunset and darkness hit. A long day, and into the evening the new owners of the Qatar Harley-Davidson, Ayman and his wife Najwa , took us to the Marriot Hotel for dinner and a show. They also invited us to share Eid al-Adha, the end of Hajj  holiday, camping with them in the desert.

8/1/06 John, a Harley rider, and our contact in Doha, and Lidia, the manager of the new H-D shop here, welcomed us to their shared house right in the middle of downtown. Surrounded by modern western restaurants and up market hotels, busy trafficked streets, the feeling that westernisation has arrived, at least to this part of the country. Here, like most of the Middle East, the original occupants tend to work in government jobs, westerners in the high paid technical jobs, usually related to oil and people from the Philippines, India and Pakistan fill the more labour intensive construction and domestic roles. Lisa and Monther had more business in the area but had time to lunch at a street side cafe and dined over a BBQ at John and Lidia's house. Another full day of socializing and trying to absorb a new culture while still organizing internet and travel.

9/1/06Interview by Al-Jazeera TV at the border The Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, where believers make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives, has been underway in the region over the past few days. Today, the 9th day of Dhu al-Hijjah signifies the beginning of the holiday period Eid al-Adha. The streets are empty, shops closed. About ten years ago the ruling sheikh of Qatar was replaced by his more liberal son. Women were then allowed to vote and drive motor vehicles along with other western reforms. Since then the country has boomed. Doha, the capital, reminds us of Dubai when we were there six years ago, thriving in development but not yet overextended. Another social day, with Lisa busily organizing the new dealership here during the day, and all of us, and ten bikers, hanging out at Starbucks Cafe in the evening. Harleys here are owned by a vast variety of people, from the Indonesian petrochemical workers to a son of the current ruling sheikh, who rode up last night on his custom German built chopper.

10/1/06 It is Lisa's birthday tomorrow along with Lidia's daughter's,Ayman and Najwa invited us to join them at their desert camp Andrea, today, and with Lisa's three adult children flying in from Bahrain this morning and an invitation for us all to Ayman and Najwa's holiday desert camp we rode south to the sandy area of Qatar about lunch time. Ayman collected us in his 4x4 for the 20 km's of sand dunes to reach the seaside camp. The holiday makers were utilizing this Middle Eastern tradition, a back to the roots, bedouin tents, a winter time camp in the sand dunes, along with the modern facilities of "Porta Potties", 4x4's, quad bikes, sand dune boarding and even some people land sailing. Ayman's family and friends added up to over 40 people at the camp, many children, playing soccer and volley ball, some swimming in the cold ocean, but most just relaxing, eating local delicacies. We encouraged a group to watch the sunset over the dunes, more a western pastime, before eating a traditional BBQ of lamb chops and shaslik, (from the fat tailed sheep) and sitting around a log fire in the evening. Tired we were in bed early, choosing to set up a bed under the stars on the top of a nearby sand dune while the rest of the westerners chose to sleep on mattresses on carpets inside the large open tents or on beach chairs. Our hosts and family partied on later into the evening About to ride the massive windswept sand dunes with John listening to music and dancing.

11/1/06 Sunrise is late in winter and from our sand dune bedroom we watched the red glow rise. The log fire was rekindled as people slowly stirred. Powell (Lisa's son), John and I grabbed the Mitsubishi 4x4 and a couple of snow boards and headed for the biggest sand dune we could find. We had practised the evening before on a small dune at the edge of the camp and now wanted to move into the big time. The wind blows constantly, exposing past salt pans and building enormous sand dunes with steep leading edges and gentle leeward slopes. The 4x4 could drive up the gentle slope, we careered down the windward side to be collected and driven back to the top. The snow boards are hard to control in the heavy soft sand, turning is difficult, so it is mostly straight down, dragging a hand, like in the surf, to turn, and with many tumbles and rolling to a stop. Breakfast was ready on the return to camp, laban, home made thick yoghurt with olive oil, flat bread, olives and beans. More people went out during the morning sand boarding while we stayed behind building a sand castle with the children. Our hosts are Lebanese and Syrian descent and living or born in Qatar, mixing culturesSurfing the dune with westerners, brought together by business interests and Harley-Davidson. Ayman's mother arrived with the festive lunch of rice and lamb with chicken and salad. Here it's not the main ingredients that make the meal so interesting but the huge variety of spices. By mid afternoon we were heading back to Doha, past thousands of 4x4's tearing up the sand, almost outnumbered with quad bikes. Unfortunately the new money and wealth coming into this area is outpacing law reforms and we saw many accidents, overturned vehicles and collisions, resulting from over enthusiasm in the holiday spirit. A quiet birthday evening dinner for Lisa, all tired, before her family flew back to Bahrain.

12/1/06 The cassette section of the motorcycles sound system had broken years ago but with technology moving along we connected an MP3 player with a FM transmitter that can be played through the bike's radio system. Now it is possible to listen to the thousand or more songs we have recorded, as we ride the long roads of Saudi Arabia. Part of the new holiday traditions is to mall shop. City Centre Mall, opened a few years ago, is enormous.Children interested in the motorcycles at Al Khor An ice skating rink at its centre, with every brand name shop surrounding. On busy days, like today, prospective shoppers are heavily profiled before being allowed entry. Wearing the local black robe of the women or white of the men guarantees entry. Westerners are also readily welcomed but as the crowds of hundreds of well dressed, darker skinned, Indian, Pakistanis or Philippinos, standing outside indicated, they are refused, abruptly turned away, a profiling that would result in expensive litigation if a western country tried to do the same at one of its malls.

13/1/06 John our host here, has been working in one of Monther's other businesses, but today was transferred to the H-D distributorship, and his first job, to escort us on the journey across Saudi Arabia. Our last day in Qatar, and extensively looked after, we joined an organized ride of 14 bikes to welcome us and introduce the new dealer, Ayman, from NBK. We rode north to a tea house at Al Khor and then dinner at Bennigans provided by NBK. A lot of farewells and home. 

14/1/06 7.00 am, John, Kay, myself and two H-D's rode out of Doha to the Saudi Arabian border, 100 km's. Leaving Qatar was a breeze, paperwork just ten minutes, nothing for the motorcycle.

Move with us to Saudi Arabia