Musfer Sinkhole (Karst Cave)

Karst & Sinkhole

Musfer Sinkhole is the official name of a karst cave in Umm Al Shabrum, central Qatar. This sinkhole is one of the karst features. Other karst features include depressions, caves, and solution hollows.  Karst is a distinctive environment characterized by landforms that are the product of dissolution of surface and subsurface rock by natural water to a greater extent than in other landscapes. It occurs both as surface and underground features. Several substantial caves are known in Qatar, but many have probably been filled with blown sand, or have collapsed to produce some of the thousands of depressions or dolines.[1]

Musfer Sinkhole
Musfer Sinkhole

Karst in Qatar occurs as three types: sinkholes, simple depressions, and compound depressions. Simple depressions are those with a single center. Compound depressions have more than one center, and are large and rectangular or irregular in shape. These depressions seem to have formed through the amalgamation of several simple depressions. More than 9700 large and small depressions, and several exposed sinkholes and caves are known.[1]

Sinkholes are concentrated in the central and northern parts of Qatar. Musfer sinkhole large karst collapse feature is expressed by a 1.5 by 0.5 km surface depression up to 20m deep. It has an opening of 12 x 4.5 m and is at least 100 m deep, though filled with sloping loose sand at the bottom. Gypsum layers of the Lower Dammam Unit and the Rus Formation occur at the bottom of this sinkhole. The cave walls are composed of the upper Dammam dolomite & limestone unit and the lower Dammam laminated shaly & silty unit. It is suspected that this sinkhole is part of a much larger cave system. [1]

Area near Musfer Sinkhole
Area near Musfer Sinkhole
Inside Musfer Sinkhole
Inside Musfer Sinkhole

 

 How it is formed [2]

 Downward percolating rain water dissolves carbonate rock and causes collapse of the overlying rock. Large depressions (sink holes) and caves form over fracture or fault zones which drains the water away. In humid climates this process forms a typical karst landscape with frequent large sinkholes often filled with water in a subterranial drainage system. Initial dissolution took place in the Pliocene when the climate changed to more humid and sea level rise caused high ground water levels. The karst features were caused by the dissolution of Rus Formation gypsum beds during humid and wet periods in the Pliocene and Pleistocene (Hofuf Formation deposited in Pliocene)

 The caves and sinkholes of Qatar is thought to have been formed in the Mid Pleistocene (325,000-560,000 years ago) when the climate was humid.

 Directions: [Note: from personal experiences]

We left Doha (to be exact Villagio Carrefour parking lot) around 05.17 AM, heading for Salwa Road. About 19.4 km from Salwa Interchange, we turn right to road leading to Umm Ash Shubrum. Approaching this turn off, you will see the Earth Satellite Tracking Station. The cave is to the right near the station. Entering turn off, you will have intersection. Both left and right turns can lead you to the cave. We chose turning left which seemed a good decision as the road is new and in good condition. (later when heading back to Doha from cave we come to know that we could have turned right for easy navigation although road was not as good as the left option; if you take the turn-right then left option you will see camel farm at the road intersection after about 4km). About 600m from the intersection we took right turn to another asphalt road. We drove around 4.1 km before making right turn at the road intersection. We turned right to asphalt road with full of potholes that we opted to drive alongside the road on dirt track. Driving about 700m from intersection, we made a left turn to not-so-obvious dirt track leading to the cave. The cave is located on an area with scattered scrubs after the power line. So make sure that you are crossing underneath power line. It took us nearly 850 meters from thepotholed asphalt road to the cave. 

There is nearby sinkhole (called Mudlem Sinkhole or Dark Cave), near Earth Satellite Station, which is ~150 m deep, filled with sloping loose sand and brackish water at the bottom. The hole has an opening of 15 m in diameter. The entrance, however, had been closed.

For safety reasons, Musfer Sinkhole is chain-link fenced; Normally closed (but not locked) a small gate is provided for access. As you start going downward the cave, you will feel temperature start decreasing and humidity increasing. No particular pathway to go to the bottom of cave; just step on stones. What interesting is that we can see layers of formation at the cave wall, and find trail of motorcycle tire (yes, motorcycle tire trace), track of bettle route (or may be small snake, I don’t know), feces of animal, and cuspid. There is a dark small gap at the bottom but we did not have courage to pass through it…..is it linked to a bigger cave system?

See the layers of formation (and Arabic graffiti?)
See the layers of formation (and Arabic graffiti?)

 

Track of beetle or snake?
Track of beetle or snake?

Coordinates:

Turn-off Umm Ash Shubrum      25 8’14”N 51 13’47”E

Musfer Sinkhole                               25 10’30”N 51 12’41”E

GPS screen shot shows trip data from Villagio to Musfer Sinkhole
GPS screen shot shows trip data from Villagio to Musfer Sinkhole

Sources:

  1. MIDDLE PLEISTOCENE KARST EVOLUTION IN THE STATE OF QATAR, ARABIAN GULF” ABDULALI M. SADIQ AND SOBHI J. NASIR (Department of Geology, The University of Qatar)
  2. Cave Desert Rose Field Trip, October 2008 (http://www.qnhg.org)
At the camel farm nearby
At the camel farm nearby
IPASQ Team on Musfer Sinkhole
IPASQ Team on Musfer Sinkhole
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14 thoughts on “Musfer Sinkhole (Karst Cave)”

  1. Dear Wahyu Family, Thanks for a great article on the Musfer Sinkhole. I got roped into writing an article on these formations for our company newsletter, and I have to say this is the best and most information reading I have found on the subject.

    Please keep sharing your experiences with us!!

    Kind regards,

    Jame

  2. thank you for the posting as its great info and I am being asked to take a group of people to see the place this eid so I will up date any information if possible… I love your blog site so wish to ask how you went about setting it up as i would like to do the same… Teramah Kasi Pak.

  3. Terimakasih Pak Basil. You can set up a blog easily from WordPress.com. Create an account and start building the blog using template provided. Looking forward to visiting your blog.

  4. This is great stuff – thanks for the info! Do you know if anybody has gone into the small dark gap at bottom to see if there is more beyond?

    1. Thanks Joe. No, I don’t know if any body has gone into the small dark gap. I don’t want to volunteer either 🙂

  5. Thanks for a detailed road map and wealth of information on teh subject. Will surely make a trip to the site soon.

  6. Checked out the sinkhole – no headlamps needed during the day. The small dark gap at the bottom is a small overhanging rock shelf. Searched up and down but there are no exits to a larger cave system – this is a single large room karst formation. A great place to visit for a day trip, lots of good opportunities for pictures. Me and the group developed a set of alternate directions from straight off the Salwa Highway. Once we drive the directions I will post.

  7. i have visited this sink hole a number of times.
    it is surprizingly big inside!

    i would advise keeping hold of your children if you bring them and to also be very careful when decending as a fall inside would be serious.

    otherwise, its a great place to go for a little change.

    Kind Regards,
    Elliot Ward

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