Monday, December 31, 2007


It appears that I am not the only one to notice (and cringe at) the overuse of certain terms in journalism. See this post from six months ago for the background. See this article for the vindication.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Today for my last excursion in Qatar, I went to Barzan.

It was used as a lookout for pearl divers (which used to be a big thing here), oncoming ships, and as a lunar observatory. There are two towers, and were built in 1910. Here’s the second tower, as seen from the one above.

My mom and I drove through a little town to get there, but by the towers there was no one around at all. When we got to the first tower, there was a door. I hesitated, then let myself in.

They sell picture frames here that have a door such as this over the picture and you open it up to see it. I assumed it was traditional here, but this was the first time I had seen a door like this. The immediate inside was full of trash, and there were stairs to the side. I went up the stairs to the landing and it was small.

I went over to be inside under the tower

and saw a guano covered ladder. I couldn’t not climb up it, so I went up to the top of the fort, knocking down the guano and I went up.

As I was climbing up, I could hear a bunch of birds fly away. The top wasn’t that big, but it did have a bit of guano.

But it did have a great view of the other tower

and of the city of Doha.

My camera batteries died after I took my first picture from the top, and I left my camera bag at the base of the tower since I had to have both hands free to climb up. So I had to climb up twice, since I had to climb down to get new batteries. I then climbed it a third time after I gave my mom the camera so she could take a picture of my at the top. I think the birds were glad that I was gone.

We then walked over to the other tower. I couldn’t go inside, since the door was inside a fenced off area on someone’s land. By this tower there was a little creek and it was green around it. It was the most green that I’ve seen my whole time here. I guess I didn't realize how much of a desert this place is until I was shocked to see something so green.

There was a courtyard by the tower that I could walk around in,

but it had litter everywhere.

This was a fun little place to visit, and it was only about half an hour from my mom’s apartment. It seemed like no one had been there in a long time, even the trash looked old. Even though the towers look desolated, the area around it had built up. The pictures I had seen of it before (on the link at the top and in other places) have just the towers in the desert. But now there were little dwelling places all around, with construction going on as well. Hopefully someone will clean up the place and the towers won’t fall into complete disrepair in the future.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Al Souq

The souq is the traditional shop/market of the Mideast. There is a big souq in Doha built where a fort was.

The souq has many, many little stores inside. There are a lot of pathways, and it’s easy to get lost and turned around. The alley ways go in all directions and feed into the main street on the inside or to the road on the outside.

In the shops there are all sorts of things for sale, like swords, Iraqi money, clothes, and food. There are also various restaurants. Phonographs are quite popular, for some reason.

Fancy decorations are available,

as are pictures and other random things,

not to mention a boat or two.

Instead of shopping carts, there are old men with wheelbarrows who will cart around your stuff for you.

Close to this souq is the old souq, which has the pigeon masque outside of it.

There are a lot of pigeons.

Across the road from this there are the gold souqs. There are at least ten of these all bunched together.

The souqs are fun to walk around and look. It’s good because there are touristy things to buy (like little magic genie lamps, post cards, pictures, etc.) but also real things that natives buy (food, clothes, pots and pans, etc). You get a good mix of enough foreigners so you can get by in English, but also enough natives so not everyone speaks English and you have an authentic feel.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

“Riding the dunes is like dancing salsa”

Here's my second post on vacation in Qatar (this is the first).

Today my parents and I and some American friends headed south of Doha to the sand dunes and the Inner Sea – a part of the Arabian Gulf (don’t call it the Persian Gulf here) that juts into Qatar. (You can click here and zoom in on the southeast corner of the country right next to Saudi.)

We went in two SUVs and drove until the road ended. There were some camels there,

and I hoped on one for a short ride.

Our drivers/guides deflated the tires a little bit and we drove into the desert, leaving any roads behind us. Unlike the rocky desert in the northern part of Qatar, this was all sand.

I have no idea how they knew where they were going, but they did. We stopped off at a pool of water that is left from high tide of the gulf.

We got back in the SUVs and kept driving. And this was quite the drive. We would go over the dunes, with the driver gunning it, then we would go down big dunes with the car turning sideways. It’s hard to grasp with a picture what it was like or explain it. The closest thing is a roller coaster with a car. My feet would be airborne and my camera would jump off my lap as we went up and down. We would drive on top of a dune a few feet from a 50-100 foot plunge. We went up and down all sorts of dunes like this.

This was about the angle we were at a lot of the time. The dark ground on the left was the flat ground.

They had walkie-talkies in the car. The best was when they started talking in Arabic, then suddenly we would both at the top a huge dune next to each other like a race. Here’s one hill where we went down almost completely sideways.

The height and slope are hard to picture, but this is what it looks like from the rear view mirror.

In the car we were listening to American hip-hop and Latin music, though when we first started going on the dunes he put on music from Pirates of the Caribbean. As we were driving, our driver told me “riding the dunes is like dancing salsa.” I was thinking, “can it get any better than driving in the middle of the desert in Qatar listening to Akon and Beyonce with the driver telling me this is like Latin dancing?” We drove for about 45-60 minutes in the desert jumping over dunes, when suddenly we were at the Arabian Gulf.

The land in the distance is Saudi Arabia. I put on my bathing suit and went for a quick swim.

The water was great. I only wish that we could have spent a few hours there. But after half an hour or so, we piled back in and drove back up to the road, filled the tires with air, and came home.

Edit: I forgot to mention that as we were sliding down the dunes, I asked our driver if he's ever seen cars flip over. He said "plenty of times." It wasn't the most reassuring thing I've ever heard.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Al Zubarah

My parents moved to Doha, Qatar and for Christmas I have come to visit. Here's what I did my first full functional day in the country. And yes, I was wearing my "Disco Stu 2002" tee shirt.I went to the west side of the country with my mom and two other people she knows. We were going west across the country on a highway, and stopped to look at some camels on the side of the road.

They were behind a fence, and were being raised the way Americans raise horses. The desert isn’t sand like I expected, it is mostly hard ground and rock.

We then went to the al Zubarah fort. It was built in 1938 on the ruins of a destroyed castle and used as a defense against Bahrain. The holes in the building were meant for guns to shoot out at intruders. The fort was then used as a jail as late as the 1970s, and as a Coast Guard place until the 1980s. It was then turned into a museum.

When we got there, there was no one there. We just walked on in and went around. After a while some other people arrived.

After going around the fort, we went to the Arabian Gulf. I waded out, it is really shallow and I couldn’t really go swimming.

Then we went to al Zubarah town. It was build in the late 1600s, and most of it has not been unearthed. In its day it was huge – some European maps called all of Qatar Zubarah after the town.

Coins from India, China, and European Africa have been found there. The city is estimated to be 2,000 by 800 meters. It will be much more impressive if it is ever fully excavated. Like the fort, we just walked on in. There wasn’t a place for anything official, it was completely self guided.

On our way home we stopped by the Emir's personal zoo, and could look in through the fence. He had various animals (mostly African) including the oryx - the national animal of Qatar.

It was a great day, I got to see a huge chunk of the country. This weekend I'll be heading south to the more sandy part of the desert and to go to the Gulf down there.


Friday, December 14, 2007


The most annoying thing for me about the media is their insistence on making up words that they think sound cool and are funny, but in reality are not.
In non election years this takes the form of words like "Brangelina" or "Bennifer". In the past few weeks we have been inundated with a flood of news about Mike Huckabee, and in response the media has reared its unoriginal head and given us "Huckacide" (which the inventor, one Rich Lowry at the National Review, thinks means 'to kill oneself with Mike Huckabee', when in fact it should mean 'to kill Mike Huckabee', but I digress), "Huck-mentum", "Huckaboom", "Huckmania", and "the Huckster", to which which we all collectively say: "Huckawhy?" Or better yet: "What the Huck?"


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

no title

Hi everybody!


Monday, December 03, 2007

When Salsanight Attacks

When I went to salsanight and closed the window earlier today, my computer went nuts. About every five seconds a new Internet window would open to salsanight (not my homepage). I tried to close the windows, but they kept coming. Salsanight was everywhere. I turned off my computer, and things are back to normal. Has this type of thing happened to anyone else before?