We're racing through history!
After going down to the pits this morning to finish packing up the truck and grabbing some pieces off the Gearbox to send home, we high-tailed it back to the Mariott, changed into some clean clothes, and went off on the “Safari”. Safari can mean a couple different things, but this particular connotation involved a 4-wheeling caravan out into the Qatar desert and sand dunes, about a 45 minute ride from Doha.
We had a caravan of about 8 vehicles, mostly Toyota Landcruisers, Nissan Pathfinders and the odd Lexus SUV. After we drove out of town into a seemingly endless expanse of flat dirt, had pan and scruffy little tufts of the odd vegetation here and there, we arrived at the base of a big sandy hill. We all got out of the rigs and the drivers proceeded to partially deflate the tires. About 10 minutes later, off we went, straight up the hills of deep sand drifts.
It was pretty obvious that for the drivers, this was clearly NOT their first rodeo, and my initial thought was that ok, these guys must be the “professional drivers” that the car companies get to do those things on the car commercials that real folks like us aren’t supposed to do but did as teenagers. We went for several hours, up, down, traversing 45 degree hills while throwing sand like water off a skid fin, rattling our butts up and down on moguls, flying off precipice of doom, pausing every now and then to take in the view of the Persian Gulf, the mountains across the border into Saudi Arabia, and at one point, they let us out of the rigs while the drivers went off on their own, putting on a little demonstration of their vehicle’s capabilities, with a touch of “can you top this?” thrown into it.
Finally, we ended up about 1 PM at a little beach resort at the edge of the Persian Gulf. We ate lunch, lounged in plastic chairs and some of us took our turn at Camel riding. There’s pictures on Facebook of this (Thank you, Chris Denslow, and I WILL get even with you!) if you dare to look.
After a two hour break at the beach (which seemed like 4…A number of people in our party commented that taking 8 carloads of boat racers to the beach without any beer might be considered a gross misdemeanor in some Western civilizations), we started the long trip back. Outside of town, you really see the truly massive expanses of oil refineries, energy generating plants and industrialization that this country roughly the size of Connecticut is putting together. Comparisons are inevitable to what we know or think we know, compared to this place that seems so distant to our homes. Seeing the endless horizons of refineries and construction was a little reminiscent of the massive plants you saw in school textbooks of Detroit as the automotive industry took off…or of Boeing’s B-17 lines in World War II. Qatar is definitely a happening place, make no mistake.
After we returned to the Hotel, we cleaned up, had a seriously good (and expensive!) dinner in the Hotel, and then went to The Souq. Easiest way to describe this is “Pike Place Market, Qatar version.” Lots of hand crafts, souvenir trinkets, clothing, pets (tons of birds, also fish, rabbits, cats, dogs, lizards, you name it…I briefly was tempted with the notion to buy a monkey to send to Troy Holmberg, but I figured the customs logistics would be insurmountable. There was even a nightclub in the middle of the Souq called Déjà vu, but it doesn’t seem to be affiliated with the American establishment of the same name: No sign of 49 beautiful camels and one ugly one.
Eventually, I wore down and Jim Riley assisted in getting as many of us back to the hotel as he could squeeze in his car, then went back for another load. Once again, proving he’s a class act.
Tomorrow, a final button up and lock down of the boat as we turn it over for shipment, a trip to The Mall is being discussed, and one last day to snoop around Doha. We fly home Tuesday morning, and I feel a touch of a cold coming on. As they say, Timing is Everything.