Tour De France? Try the Tour of Qatar!
By Waverly Nohr/Arab America Contributing Writer
In the past, countries of the Arab world have been subjects of the “oil curse” and have been exploited by major powers or brought to war over the resources that lay in that part of the world, geographically. In some countries such as the United Arab Emirates, as well as Qatar, we see the wealth from oil elevating their countries to new economic opportunities. One hobby that originated in Paris in the 1860’s, cycling, is now being seen in Qatar and the UAE. While the world was surprised by pro cycling races in Malaysia and Argentina, an even bigger surprise comes along with the emergence of pro cycling in the Middle East.
The first instance of cycling in the Arab world was the Tour of Qatar in the year 2002. This generated more buzz than experts expected, and we can see evidence of the continuation of pro cycling in the creation of the Tour of Oman in 2010, and the Tour of Dubai in 2014. Unlike countries that have built their countries infrastructure from the economic boost coming from their oil reserves, countries such as Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey have also made cycling courses that are offered year after year.
What makes these countries so interesting to cycle in? For one, most of these countries are arid and are known for the strong winds that occur regularly in local weather. It’s unlike many “challenging” courses that typically have steep inclines or sharp turns. These tours have winds that make the journey ever so grueling, The infrastructure of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and other oil countries is show-stopping as cyclists ride past skyscrapers and futuristic-like buildings. The sun intensely reflects off the buildings, making them hard to miss.
According to VeloNews, “Riders are treated like rock stars. Most fly business class on the flagship airlines (Air Qatar or Emirates Air) and stay in five-star accommodations. For years, the Tour of Qatar headquarters was in the luxurious Ritz-Carlton.” Similar to the most publicized races today such as Tour de France, Milan-San Remo, and Giro d’Italia, all cyclists are treated as the real deal, and receive amazing perks like great hotels before the race starts.
Along with the races that expert cyclists travel from far to complete, the Arab world has also made an industry out of bike tours. Making cycling an option during a holiday vacation makes traveling the Middle East a more attainable task with another item to mark off the checklist. According to Tour Radar, the top eight tours for intermediate cyclists range from being in Cyprus to being in Oman, Jordan or Turkey and each country provides the cyclist their own unique experience. While they are different by being on a much smaller scale than the Tour of Dubai or Qatar, people book months in advance for these trips with their cycling crew or their families.
The Dead Sea Circuit retails online at a price of $5,700, whereas a cheaper alternative is the Cycle Turkey for only $900. Along with price, the best rated tours also vary with how long the guided cycles are. It takes extreme dedication and grit to sign up and commit to these strenuous cycles through the cities, desserts and other beautiful landscapes of the Arab World. The cycling tours are traveler friendly in that they are operated in English and offer variety for whichever landscapes cyclists may have wanted to see while in the Arab World.
It’s important to know that the Arab World is constantly changing and evolving hobbies and becoming more of a hot spot for travelers than ever. This can be seen in the terms of cycling in the Arab world, bringing people from many backgrounds to participate in a sport they love. While we have seen a surge of races popping up in different parts of the Arab World, we can only predict that this trend will continue. Watch out for the new arena of cycling in this part of the world. With conditions like high winds and wrenching temperatures, they are different from any place where cyclists currently go.
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