The name is somewhat misleading. You might misunderstand it as a kind of flower. But no, desert rose is crystal. The name is derived from the rose-like/petal-like plates form of gypsum crystal (very common mineral in supra-tidal carbonate environments). Desert roses are basically ‘evaporite deposits’, formed when saline water evaporates. They form below the ground; 10-20 cm above the water table.
Desert roses may be found along the inland edge of coastal sabkhas and under inland sabkhas. Sabkha is a transliteration of the Arabic word for a salt flat. Sabkhas are supratidal, forming along arid coastlines and are characterized by evaporite-carbonate deposits with some siliciclastics. Sabkhas form subareal, prograding and shoaling-upward sequences that have an average thickness of a meter or less (source: Wikipedia).
Desert roses in Qatar composed of calcium sulphate, the same material as the white plaster which carved into attractive designs in the walls of traditional houses. Desert roses in Qatar are a greyish-whote. The most beautiful desert roses come from North Africa and are a rose color: a fine example can be seen in Sheikh Failsa’s museum at Shahaniyah (Source: Qatar Natural & History Group (QNHG) website).
We visited inland sabkha near Al Asaila (off Umm Bab road) to find these desert roses (See Directions below). Desert roses here can be found at 5-80 cm below the ground with size ranging from small rose-like form to big petal-like plates. Remember that roses are only available along the inland edge. Our experiences that time shows that the further you are from the edge the less likely that you will find roses. Once you find roses, let them dry out thoroughly and then brush them gently to remove sand grains. Don’t try to wash them!
In the nearby area, not far from the desert rose depression is an area called Al Asaila where there is a farm and a well. The name comes from the Arabic word for honey – asal – because the fresh water from the well was said to taste as sweet as honey. Near the farm is an isolated outlying, steep-sided plateau of limestone, crowned by the ruins of a small fort plus associated buildings. The plateau is easily defensible and commands a biew of all the surrounding landscape. On a nearby plateau are numerous pre-Islamic graves and burial cairns. (again from QNHG website)
Along the way to desert rose locality you will also find camel farms and green valley.
What to bring:
Spade, your kid’s beach sand digging toys (or gardening tools), brushes, sun protection, pail, clean water, drinking water, snack, picnic lunch
- Drive Al Waab St. Pass Villagio-Hyatt Plaza traffic light and Hyat Plaza-AL Furoisya St traffic light.
- Go through two roundabouts
- Turn left at the third roundabout
- Follow the road leading to Salwa Interchange. Bear right.
Step 1-4 could be skipped once Salwa Road road work completed allowed motorist driving Salwa Road from city.
5. Turn right to Salwa Road (towards Bu Samra) at the interchange
6. Follow about 26 km until you find Umm Bab Exit/Turn Off
7. Turn right to Umm Bab road. You will notice also sign to Sand Processing Plant to the right. Ignore it, just go straight.
The Umm Bab road from Salwa Rd will eventually merge with 56 St from right. Umm Bab road is two lane single carriage way. It is an asphalt road but a bit rough although no potholes observed. Speed limit 120 km/h. Beware of lorries or heavy truck.
8. Follow about 20 km Umm Bab road until you see Al Karshaah Village turn off
9. Turn right to Al Karshaah village road.
10. Follow about 6.5 km Al Karshaah village road. The road is two lane single carriage way with surprisingly in better condition than that Umm Bab road.
11. At the intersection, turn left then drive 300 m until you find end of asphalt road.
12. Follow obvious track leading outside village, passing through camel farm and its greenery, Al Sailah Fort (not so obvious; basically ruined forth on hill top), and green valley.
The track is a kind of rocky, dirt track with some ups and downs when approaching hilly areas.
13. About 4.7 km from end of asphalt road you will be arriving at the edge of a large inland sabkha area.
14. Follow obvious track circling sabkha perimeter for some 3 km.
The track is composed of soft sand. No dunes but beware that in some spots there are very soft and thick sand. “Ordinary” 4WD vehicle should be able to navigate this track.
15. You shall be arriving at desert rose track now.
It’s recommended that you follow the below final and intermediate coordinates to enable you reach desert rose site safely.
Al Waab Turn Off to Salwa Rd Interchange 25 13’55.5”N 51 23’40.8”E
Salwa Rd Turn Off at Salwa Rd Interchange 25 12’42”N 51 24’14.2”E
Turn Off Umm Bab 25°06’39.7″N 51°10’16.1″E
Turn Off Al Kharsaah 25°10’40.2″N 50°59’12.6″E
Al Kharsaah Intersection 25°15’53.1″N 50°58’12.4″E
End Of Asphalt Road 25°15’57.3″N 50°58’02.1″E
Al Kharsaah-Al Asaila 25°16’47.0″N 50°56’43.0″E
Al Asaila Fort areas 25°17’01.7″N 50°56’04.3″E
Start Sabkha Perimeter 25°17’24.9″N 50°55’46.6″E
Sabkha Perimeter 1 25°17’47.0″N 50°55’34.0″E
Sabkha Perimeter 2 25°18’00.0″N 50°55’18.8″E
Sabkha Perimeter 3 25°18’05.1″N 50°54’45.1″E
Sabkha Perimeter 4 25°18’07.9″N 50°54’18.9″E
Sabkha Perimeter 5 25°18’01.7″N 50°54’07.1″E
Desert Rose Site 25°17’58.0″N 50°53’52.0″E