Qatar is a hot, rocky, flat desert environment that expats have a terrible habit of complaining about. Expats from all parts of the world have false opinions about their home country, as if the streets of Denver, Madrid, Bristol, Cairns or Mexico are in some way magical havens of joy and relief. Granted we don’t have so many trees or greenery but really the whining has to stop, Qatar is as wonderful a place as any other if you just look in the right place.
There is a badly kept secret in the bottom right hand corner of Qatar that changed everything for me and my boys when we found it nearly three years ago, The Inland Sea. If you have been there then you know what a magical place it can be, you also probably know it can also be quite dangerous and a bit scary at times. Qatar’s sand dunes are not large, they cover an area of approx 100sqkm which is relatively easy to become familiar with, although large enough that you can never be complacent.
Last week heading out to the dunes for what we thought was the final family camp of this year, the boys and I collected together a brilliant convoy of friends from across Doha who all share our love for the desert, for camping and adventure and for exploring the Inland Sea. We have a favourite spot now (affectionately known as “The Fyfe Campsite”) a lot of the excitement is often in the route we choose to get to this particular camp and obviously how long we spend getting there. Last week we had one epic recovery situation to deal with and multiple excitements including transitions, big drops and huge climbs that kept everyone including the passengers on the edges of their seats.
Arriving at camp and setting up at this time of year is a breeze, the weather was being extremely kind to us and it wasn’t long before the kids were in the sea, fishing lines were being cast and a few cold ones cracked open round the fire. Every time we go something different happens, this time a small sea turtle graced us with his presence – he wasn’t the healthiest looking chap, but wildlife is so rare to spot that everyone got over excited. Another evening a few weeks ago whilst enjoying the fire and looking at the stars, a group of us where invited over to a Qatari camp for tea and dates. We found ourselves huddled around a fire between two land cruisers laughing and telling stories to a group of old boys about life, cars and family reminding us all of how special and bonding a place the desert can be.
We don’t really take any kind of entertainment with us when we camp, I’ve tried speakers for music (terrible idea) last week I produced a bow and arrow that was as terrifying as it sounds (Jack nearly got skewered to a dune…) perhaps the best toy for the children is a spade as they can dig to their hearts content and seem to never get bored. We were a 10 car convoy last week and once again we all remarked on how wonderfully the children (14 of them) played together in the wild outdoors with almost no input from us and no requirement for toys.
Having thought we wouldn’t have any time to get back down to the Inland Sea as a family before the heat comes the dreaded CoronaVirus has struck Qatar. Schools have been closed this week and seem to be for the foreseeable future, we are in the middle of a spell of the most unbelievable weather, it seems the only thing left to do to break up the children’s seemingly endless “home school holiday” is to cross the dunes to the Inland Sea and have a raft building competition.