Exploring the deserts of Qatar obviously means developing a love for the dry sandy environment we live in. But every now and then we get treated to a little bit of rain in the desert, and things get a little bit exciting!
In most parts of the world rain is a life blood, feeding crops and wildlife, providing essential drinking water and sanitation for humans. Not us. Qatar has no natural water source so our water is made in a big smokey factory, delicious man made water. We won’t go into the environmental impact of that, I would imagine it’s significant, but suffice to say it tastes delicious and we use a whole sh!t tonne of it here. It’s estimated we consume 500 litres of desalinated water every day. (A large childs paddling pool is 450 litres) but mainly this is used to keep us all alive, so I’m not complaining (and the verges of our motorways are stunning!)
So aside from the 500 litres of water we all use, we rarely see rain in the desert and we certainly have no rivers to speak of. Our cars are set up for driving on dry, dusty sand and rock, our camps are set up for the heat and wind of the desert. Not the rain. A lot of you will find this difficult to believe, but the rain here can be quite unbelievable when it comes, it literally comes with thunder.
Last weekend we took to the road for a last minute bit of socially distant camping and decided to get over to Zekreet for a change of scene and to explore the incredible rocky outcrops of the peninsula. The driving is wild and fun, with awesome steep climbs, drop offs and water run off obstacles to enjoy. We drove all the way across to the very unglamorous Umm Bab and then turned north up the coast pushing for the far end of the Zekreet Peninsula. A long bumpy corrugated journey shook bolts from the vehicles and fillings from our teeth before we arrived at our campsite.
We camped just past Film City and the Mystery Village in the lee of a stunning overhang protecting us from what we thought was a light wind, we thought the wind may have had the potential to be a bit chilly later in the evening. Setting up camp was simple once we had overcome the challenge of tent pegs not going into rock. It wasn’t long before we settled into the easy routine of making fires, cooking the kids tea and staying hydrated. It was then that we noticed the sky turning a bit black in the far distance and forks of lightning started to pierce the sky. After a delicious Lamb rack cooked over the open fire we took to our beds hoping to stay dry through the night.
The rains came not long after sunrise, somehow we were spared through the night. We quickly collapsed what we could of camp, but the boys with proper tents took moments too long and got caught in the deluge that followed. I was holed up in my car with 5 children with the heater on watching the rain drench everything around us including them, it was unreal and very funny to watch. As quickly as it arrived it passed over us and a reasonably nice day poked through. But what followed was the most exciting driving conditions I have experienced in Qatar. The rocky, gritty, dry conditions of Qatar transformed into slippery, muddy, wet conditions of Scotland in the rain. It was awesome.
Staying in a straight line is never that much fun, but fish tailing across the Zekreet Peninsula last weekend was one of the most exciting driving days I have ever had. Archie got the feel for big drifts from the passenger seat, and before I knew it was encouraging bigger and bigger sweeps across the traction less terrain. We spun twice (a bit like wiping out skiing, if you don’t, you aren’t trying hard enough) which was terrifying as the back lost grip completely and we hurtled backwards, forwards, backwards into puddles, scrub, puddles with no idea when it would stop. Screeching with laughter we went again, and again until eventually the day finished at Camel Crossing 6 all of us exhausted, punctured, muddy and ready for a smooth tarmac run back to Doha and some isolation.