A Day at the Beach, Qatari-Style
I slept in again, then got ready for my trip to the beach and headed to the pickup point. Those of us on the day-trip had our names called from a list, were given a safety brief, and got inspected for dress-code adherence, the same routine as preceded the tour of Doha. We piled into four SUVs and set out for the dunes.
Thirty minutes later we arrived, and stopped to deflate the tires before dune-bashing. Some smoked, others snapped photos as the squeals of air rushing from the tires silenced any attempt at conversation.
Vehicles ready, we began our trip across the desert, traveled at 80 to 90 mph and swerving between each other. Our driver played Arabic pop music as we drove over dunes as tall as three stories. With two vehicles already on the other side of the dune ahead, we sped up and crested, just hoping we wouldn't crash. Several times the same chain fo events occurred, but the driver, accustomed to the routine, remained calm, slouched back in his seat and occasionally slammed into a lower gear to beat another truck over a dune.
We rounded a bend and came down to the beach where several tents and awnings shaded lounge chairs on the beach. The water was crystal-clear blue, highlighted the shallows over the white sand. Where the water was deeper than three feet, about 50 meters from shore, it turned a dark navy.
The lead driver gathered us together to tell us what was available and when to expect to leave the beach. We all began to attempt to enjoy ourselves. I say "attempt" because the heat and humidity were stifling. Sweat poured down our bodies even as we sat in the shade. Plus, most of us were on our last hours of pass. Our flights back to Iraq could be scheduled for as early as midnight, a distraction to the placid beach scene.
Trying to beat the heat, most of us jumped into the water only to find the water, too, had succumbed to the heat of the sun. Despite the cool-blue color, the water was hot. The only cooling element was its evaporation from our skin in the sea breeze when we got out.
Lunch was provided, but many of us were too hot to eat. After poking at my food for about an hour I decided to jump back in the water.
I met a British man, swimming with his family. They had temporarily traded Doha city life for the beach. I struck up a conversation with him to learn a bit about Qatar. In a thick British accent, he told me how he ended up there, as a Shell employee. He said there are only about 400,000 Qatari, and that the rest of the population consists of Pakistani, Indian, and Filipino laborers, all working for the Qatari.
I asked him about Doha's incredible development. He said profits from high oil prices were fueling city's elaborate buildings and roads. He likened the growth to that felt during Internet boom, but made the point that the Qatari economy is not hedging, but using actual profits to build the infrastructure. He mentioned that the buildings I described on my trip to Doha were not financed as they would be in the West, rather they were paid for in full and wholly owned by individuals and companies.
Soon after giving the explanation his son wanted to play, so I thanked him for his insight and returned to a swim in the warm waters.
Soon enough, we needed to pack up. We left as we arrived, careening through the sand at 80 mph until we reached apaved road. We again stopped, this time to reinflate the tires. During the ride, I began planning my trip back to Al Asad, Iraq. I needed to check the flight board for my departure, pack my bag, call Mom and Dad one last time and try to get some sleep. I had prepared myself mentally for departure that night, but when we arrived back at Camp As Sayliyah, Isaw my flight was the following afternoon.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: CAPT Jerry | July 12, 2006 04:26 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.