The best part of this trip? I can’t even tell you. It was probably Shaji Siddiqi, my guide. He was hilarious, fun, insightful, curious, and up for anything! Make sure you let your guide know what is most important to you for your day (you don’t have to tell them exactly where to go, just what type of experiences and information you want to engage.). Shaji made sure we hit the local market, had some gooood coffee to start the day, ate local Chapatis, and met up with his tour guide friends so I could get a taste of how they had fun together in this business.
This was one of the best days of my life. I just came off two weeks in Ghana and had a 15 hour layover in Doha before heading to Cape Town (weirdest route ever, I know). I decided to do the full day combo and it was totally worth it. I know a lot of people do just the desert, but you really get a sense of Doha if you see the city too. The National Museum was a really treasure. They’ve meticulously curated a new exhibit on three nomadic tribes of the larger region and did so with truth about colonial practices, how Hollywood stigmatizes people from the region, and has a tremendous number of artifacts. Make sure to check out the big markets, they’re great to see and experience. There are so many things that I can’t find in America that were there.
The desert tour was just ridiculously good. Shaji was ready to take me for all my money when I told him not to hold back on the sand dune driving. Wow! We were whipping and skidding around like in the movies! It was so much fun. He was a great driver and I felt safe, though I probably looked like the scarcest kid on a rollercoaster :) I told him I wanted to dine surf and he found me a board. Tons of different tours were at the dunes and most people opted not to do it when they saw the size of the dune, but I went ahead and surfed it. Pro tip: tell your guide you want to practice on a small one first. I was the only one that did that, and it made me more comfortable. When it came time to go down the big hill, I was one of only two people to do it even though there were nearly 30 people there.
Shaji got me back to the airport on time for my flight. We talked about Muslim-Christian difference and how his life as a Brown man and mine as a Black man were different and similar. It was just what I wanted: to really connect with a local. I don’t shy away from asking about what I hear about Qatar (the poverty and human rights abuses) and Shaji was open to discussing. That made this trip even better…to have an open and curious guide was perfect for a wanderlust sociologist like me :) I thought we wouldn’t have enough time to do everything, and we didn’t, but we did so much that I was full with happiness and laughter.