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Qataris Indulge In High-Risk Dune Bashing

“Dune bashing is like a gift from God, and we feel good when we do it because there is lots of adrenalin,” Fahad, a 25-year-old science student at the University of Doha, told Middle East Eye.

He said that the success of the sport depends on how a driver follows the curves of the sand dunes.

“The car has to follow the circular arc shape of the dune. The more it follows the shape of the dune, the better your show is,” Fahad said with a smile.

He emphasised that the steering wheel has to keep moving. “If you maintain your steering wheel straight, you are quickly going to sink in the sand, lose speed, stop and your car is going to roll over,” he said.

Fahad points to a small dune in the distance where beginners can practice without fear that their cars will flip over. “But every year, there are always the same guys who come with turbo engines and the latest 4×4, but have no technique.”

There was a minor accident when a car lost speed and then tumbled down the dune, luckily nobody was injured.

“They are crazy,” says Khaled, a Qatari man in his fifties. Two cars carve impressions into the dune with two different trajectories.

“That’s it, the most dangerous. A wrong move and you [can] collide [with] the other vehicle, above or below you. If I see my sons doing it, I’ll kill them,” he said.

Fahad said that he has witnessed many minor accidents.

“I would say that every Friday there are between twenty and twenty five accidents,” he said.

According to QTA (Qatar Tourism Authority) “numerous accidents and near misses are reported each year,” some of them fatal.

A Sri Lankan Airlines flight attendant was killed and three of her colleagues were injured during a desert safari in 2015.

According to media reports, the vehicle the group were travelling in flipped over during the safari.

And in 2014, a Russian woman died and five people were seriously injured during desert safari trip in Sharjah.

QTA said that it was planning to introduce new rules aimed at better safety standards for desert safaris, by including roll bars, first aid kits, radio equipment and attaching rigid “bull bars” to the front of the vehicle to protect those on board.

The majority of the people are between 20-25. Khalil sits on the roof of his 4×4, which he has enhanced by attaching a turbo engine to it. “You can have this done in Doha’s industrial area,” he said.

“You pay approximately 10,000QR ($2,700) and you get a turbo engine. It is not mandatory, but it facilitates mounting dunes and its loud noise stands out and makes you shine,” Khalil said.

Before every desert journey, tires must be deflated just enough so adhesion to the sand increases.

Photos: Middle East Eye

However, women seem absent from this male-dominated activity. Most of them come to enjoy the show and measure the success and failure of drivers.

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