Monday, March 31, 2014

The Singing Sand Dunes ... Al Kharrara

A couple of weeks ago, when we were at the QF clubhouse, a woman from New Zealand approached me and excitedly told me she had found our blog while looking into moving to Qatar about a year and a half ago. She even had a favourite post. And she even had passed on our blog to a friend of hers, who was also now living in Qatar. For 5 minutes I felt like a rock star. And I told myself I would write more often, because -YAY - there are people (other than my family) out there reading, and I might actually be making a difference, or informing them... or something.

And then I just went on with my week.

Because life's been like that for the past few months. We've just had our heads down. We've just been working. And what precious little energy we have had left has been going into our girls, and the occasional email home. Because work and children are a lot more do-able when you go to bed every night at 9. Not very exciting or glamorous, no, but definitely less headache-inducing.

But there comes a time to get out of the rut and - most definitely - to get out of Doha. So this weekend, we found ourselves going back to a favourite place... the Singing Sand Dunes.

Each time we go, we are offered a new experience. This time our friend Liz came along with us (and took many of these wonderful pictures). At first, we were disappointed to find our usual spot strewn with litter. So we decided to check out the dune "next door"... much higher than our usual spot. It ended up being a good choice. While us girls started the steep climb up, Jeff decided to check out the sand down below, deciding whether he would dare to drive up part way.

We watched as he tested the sand with the Pathfinder, circling on and then off, on and then off again. I started to think he wasn't going to do it when I noticed this Landcruiser on the dune above us. It looked as though father and son were watching Jeff, and we waited, wondering what they might do. Sure enough, after a few minutes they drove down to Jeff, hopping out of their vehicle to speak with him, thumping their fists on his tires to guess at their pressure. "Twenty, good. Thirty, okay." He knelt down to release some pressure from the back tires. And then, with hand gestures indicating that Jeff should follow, father and son hopped back into the Landcruiser, and gunned it up the dune, with Jeff close behind. At the top, the father hopped back out, indicating to Jeff that he should park facing down the dune, to avoid getting stuck later.

Our first dune-bashing lesson, Qatari-style. Love it.

The family got out of their Landcruiser and we all said "Salaam," with the children handing us bags of chips and drinks. Without knowing it, this family was guiding me through my latest bout of culture shock, helping me remember the kindness and desert hospitality of the Qatari people.

We picnicked in the shade of our truck. And we hiked up the rest of the dune, huffing and puffing, and yes, sliding all the way down just to walk back up. We watched our desert "hosts" as they too enjoyed the dune, driving up and down, and getting out to admire the view and run down, too.

Baby Izzy was not fond of the sand and was happiest either on daddy's shoulders...

... or sitting on the mat playing and eating.

Kaiya, however, was once again fully in her element. One giant sandbox, I tell you. And she loved showing off the dunes to our guest, Simon, her class' teddy bear.

Funny enough, at one point, our hosts got their own Landcruiser stuck, giving us another chance to see desert culture in action. Within a few minutes, three men from another party far off at another dune had joined Jeff to help the family extract their vehicle. They used the wood we had planned to use for our fire to dig out all four wheels. And then they all pushed and lifted, till the vehicle was free. The picture below is Jeff in the aftermath. You could say he was a little tired. Liz likes to call this picture "Jeff of Arabia."

We stayed till sunset, enjoying the gorgeous views, and the way the sand gained a pinkish glow in the setting sun. Then, realizing we were the last ones left, we gunned it back down the dune, all of us nervously praying we wouldn't get stuck while Izzy squealed and flapped her arms in joy.

I'm still carrying the happiness of that desert encounter with me today. Truly, to know this country and its people, you really do have to get the heck out of Doha and head for the dunes. I'm glad we did.


Darren said...

You actually made me a bit nostalgic for the Singing Dunes with that post! We've encountered hordes of flies on a few of our trips there, and those experiences made me feel like we had our fill. But so glad that it was a great experience for you guys!

James said...

You guys should have a photographer with you to take pictures more often... Pictures of Jeff? There is not a more rare thing on this blog.

And of course those of us who have had the amazing fortune of coming to see you love to see pictures of the singing dunes, since we can all easily imagine ourselves there along with you, enjoying the surreal expanse of desert.

Erika said...

getting excited! for sure!

Rose said...

Yes I do LOVE that picture of Jeff of Arabia, and the dunes. Mmmm - that desert feeling is so stabilizing for me for some reason. Just to tangibly experience your place in the vast expanse of the world - to know how small you are, and to breath in the freedom that your insignificance affords...Not sure if that makes sense but, there you go. xo