The caravan passing through the desert during the Qatar Desert Challenge yesterday. Shaival Dalal
BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
DOHA: Eighteen participants yesterday experienced the journey of nomadic tribes in the ancient times as they took a 15km camel ride at the first Desert Caravan Challenge.
Organised by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) in celebration of National Sport Day, the challenge aimed at reviving the country’s age-old tradition of camel riding.
Al Zubarah, Qatar’s first world heritage site, was the fitting venue for the challenge which combined culture, sport and tourism.
“For National Sport Day we decided to do something that is more representative of our culture, sporting tradition and heritage. Camel riding is a vital part of our culture,” said Faisal Al Mohannadi, QTA Head of Digital Media
More than 460 people applied to join the challenge but only 36 were chosen through a random draw. “The participants come from all walks of life, from CEOs to students,” he said, adding that QTA tried to come up with a variety of participants in terms of nationality and gender.
The participants, many of whom had little experience in camel riding, were excited for the hours-long endurance through the desert. Composed mostly of expatriates, the participants included 12 women of different nationalities.
“It’s a different activity to do in Qatar, a new challenge. It’s a nice thing to do it outdoors while the weather is still good and it’s a great way to explore the country I’ve been living in for quite a few years,” Yosra Koura, a participant told The Peninsula.
She was no stranger to camel riding, but said it was her first time to participate in an endurance ride. “I’m an Egyptian, so I have taken camel rides at the Pyramids, but definitely not as extensively as 15km for over three hours. It’s gonna be fun.”
To ensure a safe journey, every two participants were accompanied by a camel trainer to assist them during the trip.
The ride started at Al Zubarah Fort and wound its way through the scenic desertscape for 7.5km. Then the journey stopped at Al Areesh camp and the participants returned to the starting point.
The participants enjoyed not only the camel ride experience but also Qatari hospitality as they relished authentic Qatari food at traditional tents.
The challenge builds a strong tourism offering in line with QTA’s objective to demonstrate the use of Qatari assets to build new touristic assets and offer an authentic Qatari experience to attract international tourists.
There are plans to make the challenge a tourism offering which might be a multi-day journey around the desertscape of Qatar.
It is also seen as an opportunity for tour operators to diversify their offerings in the future.
“I think it’s a good initiative to explore options beyond the City Centre, malls and souqs.
“We have other activities such as dune bashing and buggies, so this is something different. I think it will find an audience and turn into a lucrative and unique touristic option,” said Yosra.
Eighteen more participants will undertake the journey today from Al Zubarah. The Peninsula