I live in a small country that has 563 km of coastline.
Today I was reading in the Gulf Times how many of the people celebrating Eid (the end of Ramadan) chose to go out to the sand dunes or the beaches for a swim in the sea.
I have difficulties with either of these options.
First, if you go to the dunes you are taking your life in your hands. I won’t give you the details or even provide a link but all you have to do is search for Qatar dune crashes, or Qatar dune bashing on YouTube and you’ll see some of the most horrific scenes you might care to ever watch (if you happen to like this sort of thing). People in SUV’s playing “chicken” with each other, crashing into each other, bodies being tossed around out of windows as they don’t wear seatbelts…I could go on and on. It is a gruesome and disturbing sight.
We’ve been out to the dunes on occasion but probably the last time was 7 or 8 years ago when we had family visiting. If you brave the driving and go past the dunes you’ll come upon some of the most beautiful scenery, water, and beaches at the Inland Sea. But beware, you not only have to arrive safely but then you need to clean up the litter along the coastline. Finally you must put your cars in barrier positions so drivers don’t come blazing through where you’re set up and possible run over you or one of your little ones. This last part, is while ‘they’ come close to oogle western women wearing swimsuits.
The second problem I have is there are no ‘public beaches’ anywhere. Or public beaches as you or I might think of them. As you can see in the newspaper pictures, many people did go to one popular beach area. If you look closely however, you’ll see the beachgoers were all men. Wearing their underclothing. And did I mention there are no toilet facilities whatsoever? The only place people can use for the toilet is – yep – in the sea, where everyone’s swimming. Now I don’t begrudge these men wanting to spend time at the beach on their extra days off due to the holidays. They probably cannot afford a swimsuit. But does that mean I want to go there? To most likely be the only woman there and get stared at the whole time? Or if given the opportunity, brushed up against? Or swim in water that’s being used as a toilet as there are none provided? Remember, we’re in the desert here so there are no trees to hide behind….
Surely there is somewhere I can go to the beach? A public beach. I’m not even looking for one with beach chairs, maybe an ice-cream stand or small cafe. I’m just looking for the basics. Like change facilities and a toilet.
Shortly after we moved here, we started saying “we came 10 years too early” as there was still a lot of development needed. There are many more shopping malls, hotels, better roadways, sporting facilities. Yes, some hotels have beach frontage – five, I think. Plus one private Club has a beach. But we would have to join these facilities which might be possible 1) if we could afford to, 2) there’s not already a waiting list.
Tourists can use the beach if they’re staying at one of these five hotels. But what about all those other tourists they’re trying to attract here? Would they not love to relax by the beach no matter where they might choose to stay?
One of the nicest evenings we had about 4 or 5 years ago was in Dubai, on the beach, watching the sun set. Mind you, that was a hotel beach as well now that I think about it. I do know, however, that Abu Dhabi has public beaches and I would bet Dubai does as well.
We lived our first 2 years in Qatar in Al Khor and regularly visited the beach there. Though once again there were no ‘facilities’, but at least there were some little hills in one area we could perhaps hide behind. Or wait till it got dark. We were only a 10 minute drive from home, so if all else failed we could just do a quick trip back. Again, though, you’ll notice from the pictures below we had to literally carve out an area from the trash strewn all over so the kids could play (in other words – out came the garbage bags and we picked it all up within a certain area).
Or as I mentioned above if you drive to the dunes (1 hour), get past them all without injury, drive for another hour or so, you’ll come upon the Inland Sea. There is that. It is lovely. Still, sadly, no facilities.
But has there been even ONE public beach established in the 11 years we’ve lived here? Nope. A country surrounded by water.
I wonder why that is? The only reason I can conclude is that Qataris don’t use the beaches. They don’t go swimming in the sea. Why invest in something they’re not going to use?
I love the sea. I love the beach. It is one of my most favourite places to be in this world. Though surrounded by beach here, it’s difficult to enjoy any of it.
Maybe I’m just getting too old and can’t be bothered with all the obstacles you have to go through to get to any of the enjoyment part.
Life’s a bxxch sometimes….isn’t it?
Yes, I remember how astonished I was to see trash on the beach at Al Khor -the first thing I came across was an empty toothpaste tube! And then a light bulb! (dangerous). It is a shame that there isn’t a little development at the Corniche – just so people could enjoy the beauty of it. I think you were fortunate in some ways to see the city/country grow in the 11 years – it seems to me to be the “fast forward” of a western city over many, many years. Buildings are built, roads are made, change is effected etc., in what seems to be a flash! But still no beach !!!!!
Yes, it was amazing to me to know I had to clean the beach before I could walk on it. There is just no concept here of caring for the environment – yet. I’m sure it will come. It has been a blessing to see the city grow and have some of the unique experiences before it became so westernized. For that, I am thankful.
But still, no beach! ha! ha! ha!
wow I did not actually realize all that! how sad!!! to be surrounded by ocean you cannot enjoy breaks my heart!!!!
That is for sure.
One of my most unusual memories was swimming in the Red Sea as a science teacher. I had to wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt- and still our group was mobbed…in Saudi Arabia.
We had to cover when we went out as well.
I actually loved living there. Miss it tremendously.
Both of our children desire to work in the Middle East some day.It must have been good for them as well.
That must have been fantastic! It’s memories like yours that makes having lived in a different country and a different environment so worthwhile. Difficult as it can be at times, it is always an experience for sure.
I wonder where our kids will end up in their adult lives as most of it so far, has been lived over here. We shall see…. There’s generally lots of opportunity here, if your kids are wanting to make the move.