Words By: Eulogy van Dyk
Photos By: Erlanka Paquet and Eulogy van Dyk
If we had to list the “Top 10 Outdoor Activities in Qatar,” camping in Zekreet (N 25° 25.487, E 50° 46.985) literally stands out as one of the best places to go. Approximately 90km from Doha, located on the tip of a peninsula northeast of Dukhan (on the west coast of the country), you will find this beautiful breakaway destination where outdoor lovers love to spend time outdoors!
But what makes camping in Zekreet so special?
It takes you on average an hour’s drive to get there, but it feels like a world away. The area is known for its limestone escarpment, where the chalky rocks have eroded into mushroom-like formations. This escarpment, compared to the rest of Qatar, which enjoys very limited altitude gain, is worth the exaggeration and/or excitement, as you do not come across this anywhere else in the country.
You will find that the ground is harder, no soft sand or any dunes, and the area is full of interesting coves and bays. The beautiful views of the limestone rocks and cliffs together with the turquoise blue water offer a very special tranquil feeling to your camping weekend. The area is rarely crowded with visitors, making this a really pleasant destination.
Also check out Family Camping in Qatar: Spots, Supplies & Safety
What do you need to know in terms of camping?
Camping is possible either along the beach or less noticeably in a cove or near the escarpment. Depending on the weather and wind, either of the options makes a good choice. Once you have passed the small town of Zekreet you can look for a spot to camp, however the further north you travel, the more beautiful it gets.
If you live in Qatar and planning to use this as a weekend destination you can hire a permanent campsite for the winter season (five to six months). A deposit is payable to set up your campsite and you will receive the deposit back at the end of the season if you have left the area as you found it.
Free camping is very popular amongst the expats and friends, and families often make the trip out to Zekreet (especially when your weather app forecasts sunshine and moderate temperatures for the weekend!) A 4×4 vehicle is recommended, as it is difficult to reach some areas. There are no facilities or shops nearby, so campers must come prepared. Ensure you have enough fuel in your tank, bring along BBQ equipment, firewood and garbage bags to name a few. It is also very important to take enough water, especially in the summer months. The closest shop as well as a hospital is located in Dukhan, which can be anything from 20-30km away depending where you set up camp.
When is the best time to go camping?
Camping season is generally from October to April, but it is also possible to take a drive out in the hot summer months and spend one night there if you would like a change of scenery.
Sightseeing and activities
Apart from relaxing and enjoying the scenery there are also various sites to visit and activities that you can do while enjoying your weekend of camping.
Zekreet Fort, dating back to the 18th century, it’s located just outside the small town of Zekreet next to the coast. Turn left when you reach the limits of the village and drive towards the sea. The site is always open and there is no administration fee. 25°29’24.3”N 50°50’40.5”E
Mystery Village, visible on Google maps, but the name says it all. Small hut type of buildings built on the escarpment, but more detailed information regarding this is hard to come by. 25°35’11.9”N 50°50’08.0”E
Film City, no sign posts leading to this area but indicated on Google maps, was apparently built as a film set that was used in a film to mock up an ancient Arabian village in the middle of the desert. 25°34’34.8”N 50°50’48.9”E
The Beach called Ras Abrouq or Bir Zekreet is open for swimming, but do take care, some areas are really rocky close to shore and we recommend that you wear water shoes when entering. It is possible to snorkel in some areas, and visitors have spotted dolphins on rare occasions before.
Remember to pack in your running or hiking shoes for a morning run or afternoon hike. For those who struggle to travel without their mountain bikes, don’t fear there is plenty of riding here! The slopes and limestone formations offer a great playground for cyclists to ride up and down and explore.
If the wind blows your way Zekreet becomes a popular kite surfing spot or alternatively bring your SUP board along for some paddling. There are also a few areas that lend itself towards rock climbing, but it is best to contact the Doha Climbers via Facebook for local advise on where the best and safest spots are to climb.
How to get there?
From Doha, travel on the Al Rayyan road towards Dukhan, this road then turns into the highway to Al Shahanaya/Dukhan. Keep an eye out for the Zekreet exit roughly 80km away. Turn right (north) along the paved road to the village of Bir Zekreet, then travel slowly through the town and take a left after the old mosque, where the road will end, but there is a somewhat well defined track heading north. Drive along for a while, until you find your perfect spot.
So when you pay your next visit to Qatar, make sure you pack your camping gear and head out to the west coast for a great camping weekend in Zekreet!