The Dusty Sand of Doha

My plan all along was to gather a bit of the sand of Doha before I left for the sand-stony ground of home. As it turned out, it was harder to find than I expected. Everywhere I went was nothing but pavement and cobblestone pavers. Any ground I saw usually was either landscaped medians between highways, or busted up rubble from construction. Eventually I realized that busted up rubble, wasn’t rubble at all, but the way the ground just looks here. So the sand of Doha is all around, even in the air. There just wasn’t any handy enough to scoop up in the places where I went.

Other places have bigger rocks and chunks and it really does just look like busted up concrete.
Other places have bigger rocks and chunks and it really does just look like busted up concrete.

Hourglass Sands Trickling Away

We didn’t do any touring of the countryside away from the city where I might have been able to just get out and scrape up a little into a bag. Today is Wednesday of the last week I’ll be here. My clothes are packed up now except for an outfit to wear out to eat and an outfit to travel home in. I began to worry I might not get to bring any dirt, sand, or rocks home with me after all.

I realize this may not be a ‘typical’ worry of people.

However, I want the sand of Doha so I can try making a watercolor paint from it. I’ll name it “Sand of Doha”. Or maybe I’ll come up with something more imaginative. I’m really jealous of all the names of the paint collections I’ve been looking at online, and every time I try to think of a name for my own first set of colors… it’s just so plain in comparison.

No Easy Way to Find the Sand of Doha

Today it's 108*F and feels like 118*F. I'm standing in the shade of a date palm here.
Today it’s 108*F and feels like 118*F. I’m standing in the shade of a date palm here, right across the street from the apartment. I probably could have swept the street and gathered up a lot of the sand of Doha that way.

It’s been so hot that I haven’t gone any further from the apartment than from the door to the car. Plus, I didn’t know how well the residents of this place would take to a stranger, an obviously western woman at that, walking down the street alone. So I just didn’t want to take any chances and stayed close to the apartment. When I went to town, I took an Uber ride (which by the way, operates fantastically here!). That didn’t offer any chances.

When I went outside to bring the garbage to the bin it didn’t feel as hot as it has lately. I wandered a little bit. On the side of our apartment there was a stretch of un-paved ground.


Found some of the sand of Doha here in this little patch of unpaved dirt.

See those poor shriveled up plants? I’ve seen a few gardens here. They look a lot like that. Most of the gardens are very small and covered with shade cloth, but they’re still brown and shriveled. Maybe they’re done for the season. Or maybe it’s where the chickens are kept. I hear roosters crowing in the mornings and evenings here. Someone nearby, a few someones, keeps chickens somewhere.

Success!

I ran back inside to get my handy little plastic cup I had on standby for such an occasion. The ground looks hard here. It literally resembles concrete dust with bits of construction rubble spread throughout. So when I went to scoop the soil, I thought surely it would be hard and I’d have to scrape.

Not so.

The cup sank down into the earth as if it were butter. I gathered up a nice bit to take home and experiment with.

A little of the sand of Doha and a feather too.
A cup full of sand and a feather.

Soil Texture

The light and looseness of the soil surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. On windy days here, the sand kicks up into the air and lingers even once the wind has died down. It’s more like dust than sand. It’s not like the sand in Florida or any of the coastal places I’ve been in the U.S. This stuff consists of some very lightweight materials, like talcum.

A brutal and hot, hazy day with sand and humidity in the air in Doha, Qatar.
A brutal and hot, hazy day with sand and humidity in the air in Doha, Qatar.

Anyway, if no one takes it out of my bag during a searches at the customs counters, I guess I’ll get to try out the idea of making a watercolor paint from the sand of Doha after all. If it works, it’ll be a very limited quantity color unless I can get Rob to go around scooping up sand for me once I’m gone, ha.

More Sand of Doha

There is still the possibility that I’ll get the chance to go to the Corniche, which is a walkway and park along the coast. I haven’t seen the museum yet, which is in the same area. It’s just been so hot it’s hard to enjoy doing anything that requires walking around outside. But if I go, there will be the opportunity to get a little more of maybe a different sort of sand here.

Closing Notes

An interesting thing I’ve noticed here.

The water is HOT. I tried to take a shower around mid-day the other day and nearly scalded myself. Not even kidding. Even the cold tap water gets too hot for a mid-day shower here.

I’ve enjoyed my stay here. Walking through the souq, knowing the people here still shop in that environment and that it isn’t just a tourist attraction, is interesting. The air is full of sounds – of traffic, yes, because the highways surround the blocked off market area. But also sounds that haven’t changed in centuries. Shopkeepers haggling with shoppers, doves cooing, and the clink and clatter of merchandise being traded for in a setting as old as the history of civilized man.

A view from the Souq Waqif.
A view from the Souq Waqif.

There were old men in traditional garb with turbans and gowns pushing wheelbarrows fitted with cushion. They sat in the shade cast by the buildings on the cushions. When one of the local women came out of a shop laden with bags, the old man would jump out of his wheelbarrow and rush over to her to see if she wanted to hire him to cart her bags for her. I asked one of them if I could take his picture, but he said no. I figured he would, but that’s why I asked first. It is against their religion to have their photograph made (I think) and I didn’t want to offend him by taking that from him without his permission. So no pic of that to share, but I’ve seen them online before.

The Food!

The air is full of smells, too. My favorite dining experience was at the crowded little Yemeni restaurant, surrounded by nothing but the sounds of people speaking in a language I couldn’t understand and the flavors of foods whose names I couldn’t pronounce. Tasting the foods of a place is one of my favorite things to do when traveling.

Qatar is a small country on a small peninsula jutting out into the Arabian Sea. Almost everything is imported here from surrounding countries, including the labor force. So there are restaurants with authentic food to represent pretty much every group. There were a lot of western fast food restaurants here, too. We tried one to see how the menu looked, but the food was awful. If you’re in a foreign country, just try eating as the natives there do, rather than trying to find something familiar from home, haha.

What Did I Not Enjoy?

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the heat. It is oppressive and I am amazed that anyone can ever get acclimated enough to work outside in it. Rob has to work outside sometimes with his job, and it’s very hard to do without becoming heat stressed and sick by the end of a day. There is no way to capture that experience in a photograph. Even telling you the temperature won’t do it. If you’ve never been to the Middle East and want a close approximation of how the heat feels, go turn on your oven and let it preheat. When the alarm dings to let you know it’s ready, lean over and open the door. Don’t lean in so close you get burned, right? But when you feel the whoosh of hot air coming out and blowing across your face, that’s pretty close to how it feels here. Seriously.

I didn’t do a very good job of journaling to write all of these things down, even though I brought a journal and intended to do so. I didn’t get very many photographs on this trip either. While Rob was at work during the weekdays, I spent my time painting and writing on my novel. I wanted to do some sort of painting that would capture the spirit of being in the Middle East, but I also wanted it to be relevant to home.

So I painted a falcon. Except I chose a falcon native to the Ozarks to be that representative, the kestrel. Now when I look at those in the future I hope they stir up the memories of how it felt to be here searching for the sand of Doha.

American kestrels I painted while in Doha, Qatar, 2018.
American kestrels I painted while in Doha, Qatar, 2018.

About Wild Ozark
Wild Ozark is a nature farm. Mostly we grow rocks. I use those rocks and some of the herbs to make earth pigments and watercolor paints. We also grow native clay that I use for making my Fairy Swing Mushrooms. And then there are the trees. We grow lots of trees. My husband uses some for his woodworking and some for our Burnt Kettle Shagbark Hickory Syrup, but for the most part they stand around creating good air, shade, & habitat for the ginseng nursery.
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About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods
I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. You can find my art on display and for sale at the Kingston Square Arts shop in Kingston, Arkansas. It's a tiny little town and a bit off the path to anywhere at all, but a wonderful ride out to a most beautiful part of our state. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making arts & crafty things, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.

4 thoughts on “The Dusty Sand of Doha

  1. You need to write a book about your trips and I hope you can bring your sand home live you be careful always

    1. Thank you! I wish I had journaled better on all of my trips because so much of it would be interesting for a book. But when I write fiction, a lot of what I experience in my travel does influence the things I write, so all is not lost 🙂

  2. I wondered about customs as soon as I read about the sand. You might try labeling the container it’s in just as a precaution. Hope it makes it back. You never know what they’ll get worried about. Love the kestrel paintings. Are you sure painting them wasn’t something to do with R.? 🙂 As for hot water, I know a bit about what you mean. In Wyoming, the water for our cabin comes from a spring through pipes that are sometimes on the surface so when it’s hot outside, cold water’s only to be had in the early morning or from a container in the fridge! Makes taking a shower interesting, that’s for sure. 🙂

    You’ll have to come to Chicago one of these days. I know somewhere you could stay for free and someone who would take the train into “the city” with you.

    Safe travels,

    janet

    1. I’d love to go to Chicago and run amok in the city with you. I’d love to see the museums and the great botanical garden I hear they have there. A free stay is just icing on the cake 🙂 Very perceptive about the kestrel-R connection, LOL. The first one was done expressly for him, in fact. And then it became an obsession.

      Today I am taking an Uber ride over to the Museum of Islamic Art, which is on the beach front. So I’ll also be eyeing the sand there, lol. My bags of dirt and sand will definitely be labeled. I think it’ll be alright as long as it’s in the checked bag and not in the carry-on.

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