Tag Archives: cars

Dune Bashing

I’ve been in Doha, Qatar since the start of the new year running a conference for work.  As part of an effort to let attendees relax and get to know the country better, our partners organized a caravan of off-road vehicles to take us romping around the desert near the Saudi border.  The ride was actually quite gentle compared to my past experience, but it was still thrilling to cruise along the very edge of a dune, and bounce around the desert for a while.

Arab men smoking and drinking tea in a tent in Doha, Qatar the Middle East
Drinking tea at the letting-tire-out-of-the-tires place.

 

Cars in dunes in the desert in Qatar in the Middle East
The angle was actually even crazier because I was also in a car at an angle, and didn’t have the good sense to use my new camera’s internal level to straighten out the horizon (which also had its own slopes.)
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A US dollar on the mirror and oil rigs in the background.
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Eventually we got out, and it was only a matter of time before the participants started going down the dunes.
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Jumping clear off the dune!
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Me and Maja, one of the fellows, rocking our work sweatshirts. I think this is one of only two pictures of me in Qatar.
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Holding hands seemed to be a popular method, but it led to a lot of people face-planting.  After falling, the girl on the left sand-angeled her way to the bottom.  The bottom is actually part of an inland sea, which fills when the tide comes in.
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After a week of sunshine and 70s, it was windy and chilly in the desert.
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It’s hard to get a sense of scale and distance, but check out how George, the man in the middle, is the size of the guy on the left’s foot.
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We stopped on the way back to have some tea and dip our feet in the Gulf.
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Qatar tends to be ironically slow on the uptake when it comes to facilitating spending, and recently these places to fill your tires back up with air have sprung up.
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Camel crossing? I only saw two camels in Qatar, and they were being rented for laughably short rides a the tent at the edge of the desert.

This experience of course reminded me of our full-day swimming, romping and dune-boarding adventure in Egypt.  While this trip was shorter due to time constraints, it was great to see some more of Qatar.  I think everyone who came was happy to get out of the city (I am a city girl but I need frequent doses of nature), and more importantly, to get away from the conference center and have a few laughs without spending half their rent on a glass of wine.

 

For a place famous for its cars, not many move

The roads are structured like the US.  We drive on the same side, we have the same number of lanes and similar traffic patterns.

sorry for the poor photo quality, but look how few cars!

Except for one thing.

The traffic.

We encounter never more than five cars at a time, even on the only highway that goes out of Habana.  We crawl along at 30 or so, and no one honks.

They do, however, drive right into you a la Cairo.  I’ve definitely had two cars drive into me at about 5 mph already.  That doesn’t sound fast, but it is when that’s the speed of an old hunk of metal going into your leg.

Things that are Strange Because They’re not

Here’s a list of things that are so normal here I’ve already forgotten that they’re noteworthy.  It’s funny that sometimes the biggest differences fade away because no one else sees them as remarkable, which is perhaps why almost no one mentioned any of this to me before I came.

  • Cats are everywhere.  Consequently, there are no mice or rats
  • Men link arms or hold hands.  this is normal behaviour for straight guys who are friends
  • You can almost always see at least one minaret
  • Everyone rounds when dealing with money
  • There are bidets in every bathroom, even if it’s just a little tube inside the regular toilet that inaccurately shoots water
  • Men with guns are everywhere.  Egypt is I think the most chillax police state in existence.  Mostly, they just want to employ more people so there are soldiers and antiquities/tourism police everywhere
  • People just chilling on the street.  Everybody stands and chats in the street, people sleep on the sidewalks or sit on them for some tea
  • Cars here are nuts.  Triple parking is common, and everything is always bumper to bumper.  Not like our exagerated expression, but legitimately jammed up against each other
  • The smell.  Food is made of different stuff here, so the trash smells different.  Also, their sanitation system is quite different from ours.  The first day or two my nose was in pain from the smell.  I realized the other day that I don’t smell anything.  I don’t Cairo got cleaner.  Also, I bet New York or Boston smells would assail the nose of any Cairene
  • Women are dressed in various interpretations of the hijab.  The range goes from tight, revealing clothing to naquib (face covering), head scarf and long, black, loose-fitting robe.

Basically, things are as different from home as they possibly could be, while still maintaining enough similarities to make my head spin.