Sailing in Doha

“The rabbit goes up the hole, round the tree, and back down the hole,” explained our instructor for the tenth time as my fingers fumbled round the ropes trying to make a bowline knot.

We – an assorted bunch of expats – were learning to set up a laser dinghy at the Doha sailing club underneath a blazing hot sun. (If you let the sun stop you from doing things here you’ll never do anything. Well, nothing apart from shopping, anway.)

Membership is fantastic value – just 600 riyals for the year, plus a 600 riyal deposit in case of damage to boats. Family membership is also available for a small premium, while one off visitors can pay ten riyals. It’s worth joining for the beach alone, far superior to the cigarette-butt marred sand of the Oasis Hotel Beach next door.

The sailing club divides its weekends up – Friday is racing day for the serious sailors, Saturday for the beginners (that’s me), with free lessons for members. After you have acquired some measure of proficiency, you can obtain a permit allowing you to sail during the week.

In addition, the sailing club is a great place to socialize and meet people, including some friendly Qataris, Barbecues are held from time to time, too, and a blind eye is turned if you want to bring wine along. (Ramadan excepted, of course).

Then there’s the sailing. Get out of the harbour in the afternoon and there are some decent winds to be had. I find the most exciting part leaning right out of the boat, bum hanging over the side, to keep the boat steady when sailing close to the wind. The occasional fish will jump out of the water in front of you, too, especially as the day wears on. (Qatari fish like their siestas, just like the rest of the country).

At the end of the day, you can relax on a deck chair under a palm tree on the private beach, enjoying on of Qatar’s superb sunsets. (And also snug in the knowledge that the guests in the Marriott next door are paying 800 Riyals a night to enjoy the same view!)

Now all I’ve got to do is learn that bloody knot. Up the hole, round the tree...

Children bathe outside at the sailing club as the day gets cooler

Details and tips

- The Doha Sailing club is located on Ras Abu Abboud Street between the Oasis and Marriot hotels. In addition to sailing, you can also try windsurfing and rowing.

- Wear a long sleeved t-shirt and plenty of high factor sun cream, a good pair of sunglasses and a hat. The sun here makes August in Britain feel like December.

- Find a piece of string and tie it to your sunglasses. Loop it round your neck for when you capsize.

- Find some non-slip footwear. Not only will they prevent you from slipping on the jetty and in the boat, and from cutting your feet on the sharp stones, there are also lethal stonefish in the Gulf waters.

Also see: Things to See and Do in Qatar

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