Signs and Wonders Herald My Arrival

The air is normally quite dry in Qatar with prevailing winds out of the desert. This dry breeze is quite nice for dealing with the heat; high efficiency for the body’s cooling system. However it’s a common occurrence for the wind to change and come in from the gulf for a while. When this happens it becomes uncomfortably humid. Your first clue that this has happened is that you’re walking along outside with naught but a light sweat on your brow and then 60 seconds later your shirt is soaked thru front and back and there is sweat dripping into your eyes. Plus the weather forecasts are accurate for temperatures but nothing else, so there’s no advance warning. Another reason I suppose I’m the only one walking around here besides laborers.

I soon noticed some differences in the daily temperature patterns. Instead of slowly rising through the morning and slowly falling in the evening, it gets hot very quickly after the sun rises and then falls off as soon as the sun gets low.

For me this turned out to mean that I could walk to the closest store at 3pm and and require a change of clothes and shower immediately upon my return, while had I left at 4:15pm I’d have not a drop of sweat on me. So this is part of my plans now: if I need the store, I go after 4.

So I was on my way to the mall to get some munchies about 4:20 one time during my first week and all of a sudden it got semi-dark, like an eclipse. Looking around I’m like wtf!? Then I saw the stand storm.

Figure 1. A sand storm blots out my sunshine

It was pretty far away at that point and I made it to Tawar before it really hit. It wasn’t until I started heading home after with my food that I got a good taste of it.

Now, I’ve never been in a sand storm before. I kind of assumed that there would be sand blowing around but, you know, if you squint you can keep most of it out of your eyes. Well no, it wasn’t like that at all. It was more like dust or baby powder. And also in retrospect, I might have taken a hint from all the people at the mall recording video of it as if they didn’t live in the desert. (Spoiler: yeah, they are actually super rare)

The walk home was awful. I couldn’t see anything. If I had been looking around it would look like good old fashioned snow storm white out, but you know, brown, so brown out, lol. But I wasn’t looking around, I was looking straight down at my feet, covering as much of my eyes as possible with the non grocery holding hand. Squinting didn’t help at all. I couldn’t feel it hitting my eyes, but a lot was getting in there, irritating and drying out my eyes something fierce. And with contacts I couldn’t make tears fast enough.

The first 5 minutes was the worst. After I turned down the next street the wind was less swirling around and more at my back. That was when the lightning started. I didn’t realize what it was at first. It was like a strobe light or flickering street lamp. And there was no thunder, but super bright. I would normally call it cloud to cloud lightning but when I looked up I could see the moon with perfect clarity above me and not a cloud in the sky, while I still could’t make out the buildings across the street.

Later when talking to people who have been here more than a year I found out that it’s been a long time since the last sand storm: this was their first for many of them.

That weekend I had a meetup with some expats who I later referred to as humans. It was in Festival City Mall, a very large mall that was big enough for me to get lost in twice. This is the ONE mall that has directory kiosks so you can find your way around. It has 2 of them, they run a touch screen system where you can zoom and pan with your fingers. The one I went to was frozen.

I did manage to find the Cheesecake Factory where we met. (Don’t ask me what it’s like getting directions from the security guards, of which there are always dozens on duty). Here’s a pic:

say cheesecake
Figure 2. Humans?

We talked for hours over breakfast, mainly about business, Qataris and life in Doha. Also about where to buy waffle makers, which turned out to be a store in the very same mall. I went there and they did indeed sell waffle makers but were sold out. No big loss though. They were selling a shitty tiny "one waffle at a time" maker worth about 17 USD for 80 USD. Yeah, like I’m gonna pay 80 bucks to sit around all day making one waffle at a time with some junk that doesn’t even have a timer.


So I went to leave and the Uber app was quoting me 10x the normal price. I went to the door and saw it was pouring rain and well flooded.

The drops in Doha are determined not to drain

I waited a while at the mall and then stayed for lunch, how bad could rain in Qatar actually be? Well it continued for hours and there was massive flooding. After it stopped the temp dropped into the 70s and since there was no way I’m paying 10x for a cab ride, I walked the hour and a half home. It was a quite nice walk, having a break from the heat. The flooding most of the way was minor after getting clear of the mall. This was one instance that required a detour:

walk around the puddle
Figure 3. Walk Around the Puddle
make way
Figure 4. Me enjoying a cool walk, yesterday

By the time I got close to home the sun was setting. That’s when I started to see more serious issues. There were cop cars blocking of the main road near my place. Turns out that the road was flooded to car window height at a point where there are no turn offs from the road. So there was almost a km of bumper to bumper traffic stopped that couldn’t go forward. One at a time the cops had them backing up from the rear and driving over the highway divider to get out. All the while new cars kept bypassing the barricade and cops cars and getting in the way from behind.

And there’s no rain gutters here that’s I’ve seen. What do? Here’s a pic of the carnage:

hope you have food in your car
Figure 5. Flood Road

In the above picture you can see 3 oncoming cars. Those cars were not moving. They thought they could drive through the water. And they did in fact succeed in driving through the water. But now they are stopped. And popping the hood ain’t gonna fix it.

You can also see the far lane of traffic. They were there through most of the night and the next day without moving. They couldn’t get enough cops to block off all the roads so derps in the rear kept them locked in.

How did they fix? they have tanker trucks sucking up the water and pumping it out into my vacant lot.

As I turned the corner off of sad blvd and onto my side road I snapped some pics of passable flooding.

actually safe for cars
Figure 6. Minor Flooding
less safe for pedestrians
Figure 7. More Minor Flooding

They ran the truck pumping 24-7 with 4 trucks for 3 days before it was cleared out. Here’s what it looked like the next day.

pump it
Figure 8. Man Made Lake
pump it real good
Figure 9. Pumping Away All Night Long

This is just the flooding at my street. We didn’t even get the worst of it. Elsewhere there was much worse flooding in Doha (archived)

After all that, we got a nice sunset.

good night
Figure 10. Another nice sunset

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