Friday, February 14, 2014

Camels on Main Street, TP in the Can

display inside Zubarah Fort
reflection of the fort's interior
 
At the Northern tip of Qatar, the desert is sand and dirt with shallow pockets of green, waving grasses. The winter earth is marked by yellow, blue and rose colored flowers. Here, when conditions are right, families comb the brush searching for truffles.
 
truffle hunting
desert near Zubarah
 
Where the land drops away a shore rises, dotted with tiny cone-shaped shells and circling an emerald sea. Nearby is an area pocked with mounds of sand that shield what was once an old pearling village. And standing guard over everything: Al Zubarah Fort. Four walls linked by turrets. A tall door with a smaller door inside it. Visitors may climb into the towers, sit on a cannon, peer into a deep, black-hole well.
 
The old city was abandoned in the 1800s. The fort was built in 1938.  Hardly a relic by Egypt-has-the-pyramids standards. Still, visiting the area makes for a nice family day trip.
 
Kimber, Bob, Katie
inside Zubarah Fort
January 2013
 
We've been to the fort more than once: an hour's drive into the desert. Lunch in the car surrounded by sand. Twenty minutes inside where we'd peer through (weapon holes) at the sea and wonder at the ruins of the old city.
 
No one can say "This is how it is in Qatar." One can only note "This is my experience in Qatar today."
 
It seems that since our last trek into the desert, Zubarah Fort was named the country's first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site. Where once was an empty courtyard, blank rooms and unexplained curiosities, are now signs, interactive maps, displays, photographs, informational materials, puzzles, Legos, tours - and a bookstore! There are security guards, an emergency station, tents, majlis style exhibition space…and a huge, active archaeological dig site.
 
Bob reads up
inside the Fort
 
map of the dig site
 
rebuilt section of the city wall
 
inside an excavation space
 
porous stone is covered with lightweight concrete as protection
from the effects of sand and wind
 
More than a casual trek up country, a tour of Zubarah Fort is now a fascinating adventure into the history and culture of Qatar.
 
January 2014
 
When we arrived in Doha less than three years ago, wind worn streets were flanked by mounds of sand. To escape the ever present crush of traffic, frustrated drivers drove over narrow brick sidewalks and stone medians - and on the wrong side of the street too. Road names changed regularly. A recording played bird calls through speakers tucked into tree branches. Public restrooms featured sanitary spray hoses instead of paper - and if you brought your own tissue you were expected to drop it into a trash can, not flush it.
 
the can is for used tp
yes, really
 
Communion at the Catholic Church meant crowds of people climbing over one another to queue for Jesus in a horde shaped clump - waiting-in-line Middle Eastern/Asian style.
 
Today, an evolving infrastructure offers means to nurture broad swaths of color along multi-lane streets. Some homes and businesses display actual street and building numbers. There may not be structure to the lining up, but there is order during communion. Palm trees play Simon and Garfunkel tunes instead of birdsong and it seems that winged creatures - and trees! - are everywhere.
 
pretty day
Museum of Islamic Art Park
 
In less than 20 years the country has gone from sand, stone and rock to highways, bullet shaped towers and sky high, multi-hued, color changing structures. There's a twisted cone shaped mosque and zig-zag building.  Museums, stadiums, hotels, shops, malls, convention center and, well…lots more.
 
Less than 100 years ago, school meant children sitting cross legged on a dirt floor. Today it's internationally renowned educational institutions like Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medical College and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. There is cable, internet and electricity in the most remote areas. Gordon Ramsey and Stella McCartney are represented locally and funnyman Gabriel Iglesias performed here.
 
Wide, modern highways mean drivers rarely need to cruise along the sidewalk anymore and, generally speaking and most of the time, cars keep to appointed lanes.
 
hey guys, welcome!
seen along the highway
 
It's true that restaurants still use Kleenex as napkins and restrooms provide trash cans for disposal of used paper. But more often now…there is paper.
 
Doha is mosques, tents, traditional desert people in traditional attire. But Lamborghini, Porsche and headlight flashing Land Cruisers - not camels - cruise city streets. Flowers, birds, trees, shiny malls, modern buildings, boat races, tennis and golf events, yachts…
 
Kimber, Katie, Bob
before UNESCO
Zubarah, January 2013
 
and a UNESCO World Heritage Site  - with a cannon. Top that, Egypt!
 
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