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A Trip to Purple Island


Al Khor Island, also known as Purple Island, is not one of the most popular day trips from Doha—even some veteran Doha expats will be genuinely stumped when you ask about it.

But don’t let that put you off; it’s well worth visiting this deserted and interesting corner of Qatar.

Despite its name, Purple Island is surprisingly green especially given that it is in a country that gets less than 71 mm of rain per year. Its lush mangrove forest will provide a welcome blast of green to any Doha dweller.

The island is situated near Al Khor and is only a forty-minute drive from Doha. After parking your car, you will set off on your walk along a raised pathway which leads you to the island. Either side of the pathway are the mangroves that seem to be teeming with life, making it an excellent nature trail for your children. They will enjoy spotting fish and crabs, collecting sticks and stones and discovering unusual looking plants and flowers. Take a bucket and a magnifying glass and let their imagination run wild!

Update, 30 Jan 2016: The pathway leading out to Purple Island has been demolished. To get to the island, you must wade through 1–3ft of water (depending on the tide levels) for approximately 500 metres. This may be difficult with small children in tow, especially if the tide rises while you’re on the island. You can keep an eye on the tide schedule on the Qatar Meteorology Department’s website, qweather.gov.qa. Don’t forget to bring water shoes for the walk!

What’s in a name?

You would be forgiven for thinking that the island was named after the purple-hued flower that is seen growing in the surrounding swampy ground. But in fact, the island is an ancient dye-producing site dating back 3,400 years! A species of sea snail lived on the island which was used to produce an extremely rare purple dye that was used only by very select members of society at the time. Perhaps this is why, to this day, we associate the colour purple with royalty.

Once on the island, you are back to the more familiar rocky, desert terrain of Qatar where the nature trail continues for your little explorers. Here, there are plenty of climbing opportunities—an excellent way of letting your kids play freely, experience and encounter boundaries, and practice how to assess and manage risk. Budding palaeontologists will also enjoy crunching their way over thousands of tiny sea shells underfoot, picking out their favourites and hunting for fossils.

Take a picnic blanket and then settle down for a bite to eat by the edge of the crystal clear sea and enjoy the tranquillity and purity of your surroundings. A perfect escape from the city for the whole family.

How to get there

• Drive to Al Khor.
• Go through Al Khor town, following the signs to Al Thakhira (a nearby town). At the RasGas/Industrial Area roundabout, follow the sign to Al Thakhira.
• Continue to Al Thakhira, go past the turning for Al Khor Hospital and go past the turning for Al Khor Community.
• After roughly 2.5km from the RasGas/Industrial Area roundabout, turn right and continue for around 5km on an asphalt road. You will drive past a big water tank tower on your right, which has a Qatargas and RasGas logo on it.
• Pass the intersection on your left and continue for 200m. Look out for a small sign for the Flower Each Spring camp and after reaching this sign, turn onto the dirt track.
• Follow the firm and obvious dirt track. As you approach the pathway leading to the island, you will see a large building on your left.
• After approximately 2km, you will see the start of the raised pathway on your right.
• If you have arrived at the Flower Each Spring camp, you’ve gone too far! The pathway is behind you on your rear-right.

Things to remember

  • Do take a picnic as there are no shops/cafés nearby.
  • Do respect this hotbed of nature and take your litter home with you.
  • Do wear sensible footwear.
  • Don’t bring pushchairs/buggies. If you have babies or toddlers expect to have to carry them, so bring a baby sling or carrier.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t own a 4×4. You can get there by car as long as you’re prepared for a short off-road section

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