Do or do not

Bucket. Wish. Shopping. To do. Short. Watch. Hit. Set…there’s a list for everything

Lists dominate our lives.

Magazines put them on their cover (the 10 best swim-up bars in the Maldives!)
Websites use them as click bait (Seven scary things that rash could be!)
Basically, if in doubt, run a list (37 surprising uses for cous cous!)

Lists are bad enough if you’re an employee; worse for parents and a triple threat for expats.

Onlooker
Amnesiac waits to find out if his mum and sister are in the stranded Land Cruiser

There’ll be lists for moving and packing and recycling and selling and donating and storing; of things to buy when you reach your destination; of questions to ask; of recommendations to get; of people, places and phone numbers, of official-sounding Things To Do.

Then there’s lists of things to ask visitors to bring, stuff to buy when you go home, things to see and do while you’re here…

But sometimes, you just need to start crossing things off your lists – like we did when we went to the desert last week.

The list is lifelong

Post it
My weapon of choice

For most households, it’s probably irrelevant if you prefer to keep track of the various un-done things in your life via apps, synced programs running across multiple devices, calendar reminders, documents stored in the cloud, blackboards, dry wipe boards, family planners with their fiendish gridlock of logistics or plain old post-its.

Because I suspect that the items on those lists are merely variations on a few themes,

  • from the functional (buy Amnesiac football boots)
  • to stuff which requires a bit more planning (renew Kid A’s passport whilst it’s not an emergency)
  • to the pleasantly distracting (research holiday)
  • and onto the items that are so big, so omnipresent, they don’t need to go on a list at all (find a job).

Back in the UK this summer we got asked a lot about how we spent our weekends, or some of our mates put it more bluntly: “So, what is there to do in Qatar, anyway?”

Funny you should ask; we’ve got a list for that, too.

Ants
Let’s follow them…

We put it together before visitor season earlier this year. It was our way of attempting to offer the full range of activities to our guests. And whilst we crossed off most of the things on that list, some were missed despite our best efforts (two attempts to take visiting parents out on dhows; one scuppered by weekend Corniche traffic, the other by crappy weather) while a few others just…slipped through the net.

I mean, why prioritise a trip to desert, right? It’s not like it’s going anywhere, is it?

Which is fair enough, until your kids come home from school asking if we can go sometime soon, please, because they are the only ones left in either of their classes who hasn’t been yet.

Obtuse angle
Buckle up

And you don’t want to find yourself living somewhere else a few years from now, trying to explain it to your new friends, who will be shaking their heads saying “It’s the size of Yorkshire, and most of it’s empty, how could you not see it all?”

Back with a vengeance

So, we returned to Qatar for our second year filled with purpose; there will be no looking back in another year’s time and asking why we didn’t do something. And besides, we all need things to look forward to. Plans give us focus, hope, anticipation…

Show off
He’s going down this incline in reverse on purpose, the show off…

…which is how we came to find ourselves sleeping in the desert the other night.

We’d seen an ad for a one-night-only half price desert safari / dune bashing trip, and so we went for it. The chance to cross two things off our to do list so soon after returning was too great to pass up.

And so last Thursday night we found ourselves hanging about the rubble-strewn empty block next to the airport, along with about 70 other folks.

Stranded
…but this guy is stuck halfway up / down a dune. Thankfully everyone got out ok

The tour company (Qatar International Tours; other tour companies are available) take you to the camp and brings you back via the desert the next morning.

On the journey down, we offered to split up to help fill the Land Cruiser convoy to capacity, so Amnesiac and I found ourselves in a car with a Syrian-American family. It took about 12 seconds to establish that the dad and I shared a former employer, the same company the mum now works for.

So we amiably traded acronyms, jargon and company gossip for an hour and in between I found out that they’d been in Doha just over a year, just like us. (“Why did you leave the Pacific North West?” “We got sick of checking the weather first thing every morning.”)

And they were also making their first, much delayed, trip to the desert, just like us and that they too were back for a second year and seizing the day like there was no tomorrow.

It felt great to know we weren’t alone in our first year shortcomings.

No time like the present

We headed down to Sealine and from there, with our tyres deflated, set off into the dunes.

Ironically, despite us being so eager to get amongst it, the camping part of the trip wasn’t all that amazing (in Qatar’s polarising but hilarious “5* or no star” culture, this was definitely at the no star end of things).

Coastal sunrise
5:30am doesn’t look this good on a weekday

The camp is rudimentary, with shared tents (something that wasn’t flagged up in the literature) and air conditioning which only came on after 11.

The kids had a blast, exhausting themselves jumping off dunes all night. But even with the coastal breeze, the hot air made sleep hard enough to come by, without the kids waking up at assorted intervals and the neighbouring tent partying till the small hours.

But we were up for the sunrise, and Kid A and I managed a swim in the sea before an early breakfast for a weekend morning (6.30) and a 7.30 departure for dune bashing.

It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time – and this despite us only following tracks ranked 1 for risk (out of 4).

On the edge
Stay away from the edge, kids; only 4x4s are allowed down there

We stopped for photos at the top of a very steep dune, which we warned the kids about not going too close to the edge of in case they went over.

Naturally, as soon as the break was over, we got in our Land Cruisers…and drove straight down it (one of the cars even went down backwards, just because).

The convoy of about a dozen Land Cruisers were driven by experts and our safety was never in question. But the exhilaration was something else.

We had stranded vehicles (cue five minutes of mild panic on my part that Mrs LC and Kid A were in the lopsided vehicle; they weren’t, and everyone who was got out ok)

There were emergency tows and emergency tyre changes (it’s no wonder everything in the region takes forever; if there were 14 guys looking at that tyre, there were 15 opinions on how best to change it).

Pit stop
All he wanted to do was get out and photograph what was going on

We’ll definitely be back for more dune bashing, all of us in one vehicle, minus the camping. If you live here and haven’t been yet, go!

And wherever you are, whatever you’ve got on your to do list, there’s a weekend coming up… take Yoda’s advice and JFDI.

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6 thoughts on “Do or do not

  1. Kean Walmsley September 19, 2013 / 6:57 pm

    Nice meta-list, Nat! (Hoping that translates for non-computer scientists. 🙂

    Kean

    • littlecity September 20, 2013 / 5:22 am

      Thanks, it does! Glad you saw what I did there…

  2. Andrew September 19, 2013 / 11:41 pm

    As my wife and I are due in Doha In less than a month, thanks for writing a blog both funny and informative for impending ex pats like us.

    • littlecity September 20, 2013 / 6:19 am

      Thanks for stopping by, Andrew, and I’m glad you like the blog. Let me offer you an early welcome to Doha; you’ve picked a good time of year to arrive. You probably have a million questions, let me know if I can help answer any of them. I learned a lot by trial and error when we moved here, and would be happy to point out where others can avoid doing the same.

  3. Andrew September 20, 2013 / 8:57 am

    Ah your very kind. We do indeed have a million and one questions, are you happy for me to clog up these pages with them or can we go off-line?. Thanks again.

    • justkooki September 21, 2013 / 5:00 am

      Aye mate, ” minus the camping”? That’s the good part. Give it another go but next time without the tour company’s crappy facilities. Take your own tent. Or if you go when it’s still warm, don’t take a tent at all and sleep under the stars. Just make sure you secure both ends of the sleeping area with SUV’s so no night time dune bashing goes awry right where you’re sleeping. Also try going when it isn’t so hot and humid.

      Driving there is quite easy. There’s basically a road that goes straight in. You can hit a few small dunes if you’d like to practice your sand driving skills.

      I know a family who will be going next weekend…

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