On Fridays, everything in Qatar is closed. It’s like Sunday in the US with three times the service interruption.

We had no idea, so when our flight landed in the wee hours Friday morning, the entire city was shut down. We had the wrong address and ended up in the industrial section 20 minutes out of town. The sprawl was incredible – LA has nothing on Doha.

We tried asking for the “city center,” also unaware that a building in the new downtown bears the same name.

Doha’s trying to compete with Dubai for the title of premier gulf city, so the new downtown is populated almost exclusively with cranes and unfinished buildings. It was getting hot quickly in the high-rise ghost town.

If we could just get to the Internet, we could look up the address and even call the hostel if necessary. Unfortunately the guy at the 24-hour pharmacy told us everything would be closed until 4 pm.

It was about 7 am.

There were tons of closed shops around the area. Maybe one would have unprotected wifi? After a few minutes of scouring the area with our phones, we had the address and phone number and were in a cab on the way to beds and air conditioning.

Doha’s only hostel turned out to be quite a bonanza. There are a ton of clean, cool rooms, the common area is done very nicely, and they have fast wifi. It’s a bit out of the way and requires a little direction in addition to the address for taxis, but in a city of excess, paying $20 per person per night is worth it.

Taxis, by the way, are normally super difficult to hail. They apparently retired all the old orange taxis before there were enough new ones to replace them, so when I called in to request a pickup, the wait was 4 hours.

We wanted to get down to Sealine Beach, about 45 minutes outside of Doha, so we figured we’d wander around in the 113 degree heat until we found one.

We were pretty pleased to find our friend John, who was also staying at the hostel, getting out of one just outside.

You wouldn’t expect a guy in his fifties to be interested in blasting around the dunes on four wheelers, but he only took a second to think before he was in. We swapped stories as the sun moved lower in the sky.

One enormous dune came up on the horizon. No build-up of smaller dunes, just BAM!! Cue the dunes!

We tracked down some four wheelers and cruised up and down, found jumps, even raced across the flat desert to the next set of dunes. Had a close call or two too.

It’s too hot before evening to do much of anything, so the next day we visited the old souqs (markets) to look around and find dinner. There were tons of spice and fabric stores, and you’d be able to find almost anything else among the huge variety of shops.

After a walk down to the port to check out the budding skyline. we were ready to get some sleep before the early flight to Paris. Qatar Airways is a blessing of an airline, by the way.

We jumped at the opportunity to extend our layover in Qatar to a couple of days, and I’d do it again. Awesome to get my first glimpse of the desert and check out a gulf nation.

But man is it hot.