As the crow flies, the scrapyard in Al Wukair is only 12 miles from the center of Doha, but it could hardly be more different. Leaving behind the dazzling city skyline and heading in southwest, you encounter the kind of desert that is more akin to “Mad Max” than romantic rolling dunes. This is not to say the place is devoid of charm, but this is a different kind of charm.
At any given time, the gigantic scrapyard accommodates around 20,000 vehicles, including cars, jeeps, trucks, buses, excavators, loaders, bulldozers, cement mixers, cranes, and other construction equipment. There are also motorbikes, dune buggies, water scooters, boats, and nearly every means of transportation that you can think of. These vehicles can be relatively new, old, vintage, or ancient. They can be pristine, dented, neglected, partly wrecked, completely wrecked, or burnt beyond recognition.
Walking through the endless rows of dust-covered vehicles is an eerie experience that evokes post-apocalyptic imageries. There is a sense of beauty in the fact that each vehicle was once valued and perhaps even treasured, and now it is quite literally collecting dust, awaiting to be transformed and reborn as something other than itself. You cannot help but pause and admire.
On average, a vehicle stays in the scrapyard for four months, during which attempts are made to contact the registered owner. If no one reclaims the vehicle, it is usually demolished and compacted, ready to be recycled and reused—usually for construction purposes. Vintage vehicles do not usually undergo this process, but are kept in a separate section of the yard, and once a year an auction is held to sell them off to the highest bidders.
Know Before You Go
The scrapyard is a perfectly legal enterprise run under the surveillance of the state police. Visits are not encouraged, but they are not actively discouraged either (as yet). At the entrance, there are several bungalow-like offices. Even if the guards are not present, it is implicitly required that visitors report themselves to the authorities upon entering. An authorized escort accompanies visitors to the scrapyard. It should be understood that this is not a guide in the common sense of the term. His or her presence is to ensure the safety of the visitors, and perhaps, that nothing gets stolen.
It may not seem the most direct route, but the easiest way to reach the scrapyard is actually by heading west along Salwa Road, and then heading south following the signs for Mesaieed. Along the way, there is an exit for Al Wukair, which leads directly to the scrapyard. This route is longer than driving through Al Wukair (village), but it bypasses all the traffic and the countless speed bumps.