Sunday, January 11, 2009

Camel Riding in Qatar

Riding the Camels

This week has been quiet, at least in relative terms. Dave and I started driving ourselves to work through the dodgem track that is Doha’s morning rush hour. The trick is, we decided, to stop listening to the horns of the locals whose idea of entry into the swirl around a roundabout appears to be “see a hole about half the size that a sane driver would aim for, drive into it at speed.” and drive as if we were confident, but cautious, Qatari. It seems to work.

Our trip home each day is marked by us meeting a seemingly endless convoy of trucks coming in from the KSA along the highway. The convoy creeps along at 10 kph if its lucky with its head some 2 ks down the road into Doha and its tail somewhere in the distance towards Saudi.

Meeting the convoy on a round about makes us feel as if our car should be designed to concertina sideways so that we are not crushed by the trucks that circle us on either side before diving off at various exit points to deliver whatever is hidden under the canvas to the building site that is The Pearl or Losail on the West Bay side of Doha.

The convoy is apparently bringing in building materials for the developments like The Pearl that are springing up all around the city. The Pearl is a luxury city within the city.. massive apartment blocks over looking an artificial marina and shopping complex that runs along the waterfront. The whole complex is designed to resemble Venice and is being sold to the public with the tag line: “Venice has come to Qatar” and photos of women with Venetian masks held provocatively in front of their faces.
The Pearl Complex

The whole complex has cost the developers QR50 Billion. They hope to make their profit from the sale of apartments which start at QR1.5 million for a one bedroom complex and then step up in QR million increments.

Somewhat out of our league I think.

Back at work it has been the beginning of exam week. This is not an exercise the boys seem to appreciate because immediately the first paper was over at 9.30 a.m and, despite there being normal classes for the rest of the day, the boys were out of the hall and sprinting to emulate the prisoners at Colditz as they scaled the walls and gates to make a get away in the 4x4s and utes that screamed up along the road, bucked to a momentary halt in a screen of burning rubber, spun 180 degrees and, with their cargo on board, headed out across the desert or back the way they’d come.

We can, apparently, expect to see the scene repeated all this coming week as well and not just at our school!!

On Friday Dave, his wife Shirley, Joy & I drove to Mesaieed and the SeaLine Resort area to see what weekend entertainment was on offer at the beach and sand dunes.

The dunes attract every 4x4 in the area along with hundreds of quad bike rental firms all catering for the thrill seekers who roar up the dunes then slide down in convoys of BMWs, Range Rovers, Toyotas and other high end wagons in clouds of dust, sand and exhaust smoke.

We saw a tent with half a dozen camels tied up alongside so headed for them looking for photo opportunities. The owners appeared and offered us rides on the beasts. So for QR20.00 each we mounted up and were lead along the dunes for about 100 metres then back to the site where we took turns in photographing our respective spouses perched on the camels.

Joy clings on. Alan trying to look camel ready.

The ride was a strange experience as the gait of a camel is combination of sway and lurch so that one has the sense that one is not firmly seated, as one would feel on a horse, and under threat of sliding off. As well the camel rises from it kneeling position by lifting first its hind quarters then its forequarters so one leans forward then slides back into the saddle before lurching off into the desert.
Dave Parry & Me ready to hit the dunes

Next week - planning for Egypt.

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