Friday, February 13, 2009

Sandstorms & Camel Racing

Of Sandstorms and Camel Racing.

This week has been one of coming back to earth after our travels in Egypt and heading back to work and implementing the various professional development plans to address the issues I identified in the first hectic six weeks of the project.

I spent the first few days writing up the proposals and the monthly report that summed up our activities over January and the first few weeks of this month before plunging into the classrooms to observe and make recommendations that may, if pursued, encourage the students to enjoy and learn English more enthusiastically than they have been doing.

The euphoria of reaching third place among the Independent schools remains but now comes the hard part - raising the academic progress of the students!!

The week was marked by our first experience of a sand-storm. Whereas three hours of rain grabbed front page headlines in the Tribune the two day sand-storm merely warranted a brief mention under weather conditions assuring us it would all be over by Friday afternoon.

The view from our apartment window was one of grey gritty air for the three days the winds swirled through from KSA. The photos show the view over the street and the neighbouring buildings. In normal conditions we would easily see the tower blocks in the middle distance (The shadows in the haze ).

Walking anywhere in the haze was like walking down Foxton or South Beach on a windy day but without the bite of driving sand one experiences there. Afterward we needed to drink copious amounts of water to wash the grit from our throats.

The storm and the sand haze had lifted by Saturday which meant that we could finally witness the Camel racing we'd been told so much about when we arrived here.

All of the Mazda Apartment dwellers drove out to the Camel Race Track and, through the good offices of the Chairman of the Qatar Camel Racing Association, were able to ride in the spectator bus, with th e owners around the track and cheer the camels along.
The camels were, unlike horses, calmly waiting their turn on the track in a large screened off enclosure while their trainers fussed about them and discussed tactics with the owners.

When the race was about to start they had their robot jockeys attached and were walked into the birdcage ready to be lead into the starting gate.

Here the trainers held them in the ready position with a rope until the starter signalled the start - at which point the trainers slipped the ropes free of the camels and began to run in a desperate scramble to escape the camels towards the fence.

As the camels careered down the track the owners and us in the bus headed off after them on the 6 km journey to the finish line.

Each camel has a little robotic jockey mounted on their back and controlled by the owner from the comfort of his 4x4 as he races at a steady 40kph alongside.
As the race nears its end the little jockeys begin flailing away like demented helicopters in an effort to urge greater speed from the camels while the drivers parp and blow their hours and we in the bus yell at our favoured animals to get a move on and cross the finish line in pride of place. Incidentally, sound track aside, apart from the horn blowing and yelling in the last km of the race there is no sound from the camels as they pound along the sand track for the entire 6 km.

A lot of enthusiastic fun for all of us.

The finish line was a familiar form for the camels while the sight of a line of 4x4s six abreast heading for the finish line on the track beside the camel track was a little more daunting for us!

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