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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Opinion: Galactic Core Bay – The best place to see the Milky Way in Qatar


Photo enthusiasts in Qatar have plenty of venues to choose from, including the stunning Museum of Islamic Art, the futuristic-looking Doha skyline, the Torch and the Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab mosque (state mosque).

But for those looking to go off the beaten path, two photographers are sharing a new location they stumbled across. Here’s their tale.

Photography is a popular hobby these days. The coming of winter in Qatar brings joy to everyone and opens up opportunities for photography enthusiasts and adventure-seekers to get out of their comfort zone to explore.

Qatar has some interesting places to shoot, including the usual suspects mentioned above. Once those areas have been photographed, some people move on taking pictures of Fuwairit beach, Zekreet and Khor Al-Udaid.

Galactic Core Bay
Galactic Core Bay

Some of the braver ones will venture out to shoot sunset vistas at Al-Karana and the Al-Thakira mangroves.

And then there are the hardcore types. In their ongoing quest to shoot something different, some set their sights on astrophotography, specifically attempting to capture the galactic core of the Milky Way.

With the help of light pollution charts, you can find areas in the country that are suitable for observing and capturing the night sky.

One such deserted but beautiful place, which we have dubbed “Galactic Core Bay,” was discovered by chance when we were looking for a dark and deserted place to shoot.

This uninhabited little area in the northwest part of the country, just south of Al Zubara Fort, is open on the west to the Gulf of Bahrain.

The area is a desolate bay with no name associated with it on Google maps, though it’s apparently known as “Umm al-Maa” by locals. The coordinates are: 25°52’51.5″N 50°58’21.1″E

Here’s some more information about it:

The good

Galactic Core Bay has an unhindered view of the water, making it perfect for sunset-over-the-ocean type shots.

Galactic Core Bay
Galactic Core Bay

Our group was able to capture never-before-seen shots of the Milky Way stretching over the ocean in all its glory.

This is despite the fact that the peak season for capturing the galaxy from Qatar’s geographical location won’t begin until the end of April.

From a photographic standpoint, there is foreground interest in the form of a half-sunken old pier.

With proper framing, one can combine the beauty of the wild sea waves, the bridge over the sea, stars and at the right time of the year, a strikingly beautiful Milky Way rising above the horizon – and it’s all in Qatar.

The bad

There are no roads that lead to Galactic Core Bay, and it takes about 30 minutes of treacherous off-roading that will likely shave a few years off of your 4×4. For this reason alone, we advise going in a group with at least two 4×4 vehicles just to be on the safe side.

The ugly

If you go at night, it’s not much of an issue, but for daylight trips, sea-debris washed up on the shore along with some man-made trash detract a bit from experience.

Some spooky stuff

According to native folklore, a ghostly figure in a white sari has been believed to have been seen in the desolate places of Qatar such as this location.

Those who have witnessed it firsthand recommends keeping the pedal to the metal if this figure is spotted and not stop the car at any cost.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Another useful tip is to avoid traveling to such places at night and go in groups rather than alone. Whatever the case, a little extra precaution won’t hurt so stay vigilant.

Fortunately, we did not encounter anything even remotely close and had a wonderful time enjoying the fresh breeze, breathtaking seaview and memorable captures.


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