Why? So they can build authentic cobblestone roads for cyclists to race on, in an effort to replicate that certain something that makes Flanders one of the top cycling regions on the planet.
Qatar is the richest country in the world, largely because of an estimated 25 billion barrels of oil and 25 trillion cubic metres of natural gas. It has negligible unemployment and little poverty, but, needless to say, no cobbled streets.
Pajottenland does have those, in abundance. Situated in the southwest of Flemish Brabant and part of East Flanders, the area’s rolling landscape lends itself to cycle racing, the perfect place to put riders through their paces. Last weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen is the most important of these, and long stretches of the race are run over cobbled roads.
Qatar also has its own ronde, the Tour of Qatar. The website Editiepajot last week reported that Qatari officials have been scouting for cobblestones in Dworp, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw and Halle.
Offside found dozens of small ads on various Flemish sites offering cobblestones for sale, at prices ranging from €200 for an 18-metre driveway to €1,750 for 90 metres of Napoleonhead stones. Not that money is an object, of course, but it does appear that the Qataris will have to drive over and pick the stones up themselves.