This photo captured the moment that I was awakened. A woman, that I don’t know, is setting up her easel at the base of a sand dune.
Looks idyllic, doesn’t it?
Let’s rewind a few minutes.
I was sleeping, finally, after my desert camping companions stopped talking and laughing and the music with bass so loud you can feel it in your heart was turned off. That was, I think, around 430am. When the sky started to turn from inky black to less inky black. I’m not sure because I turned in around 2am.
I had imagined that desert camping would allow us to enjoy Qatar’s nature. The sea, the dunes, the peace and quiet. Isn’t that why people want to leave the city? To get far away from work and civilization. No cars or air conditioning. Just us and the elements.
I was so wrong.
It turns out that people here commonly want to take a replica of their city life and transplant it into the wilderness. Televisions, stereos, dune buggies everywhere, and generators. Some even take their maids and living room furniture.
Doha is brought to the desert. What I wanted to leave behind me for the weekend, they want to bring with them.
So, I went to bed. Before the others. I left them to their DJ and disco in the desert. Maybe in the morning they will all be sleeping and I can wander in peace and feel the nature I long for. I close my eyes.
My first conscious thought was I hear music. And thumping bass. Still? There was light peeping through my eyelids. Have the campers been partying all night? A car door slams a few inches from my eardrum. And then the music that was merely loud is turned to max.
I crawl out of the tangle that is my sleeping bag and open the tent flap. A car is parked directly in front of the tent and I squint in the sunlight to see a woman setting up to paint. Not to the sounds of birds softly chirping. Or the waves lapping onto the warm sandy shore. Her car radio is blaring into the desert paradise. My desert paradise. The one that I had finally fallen asleep to just a an hour or so before. The heavenly quiet that I had been waiting for has been pierced by noise once again.
Out of all of the dunes in the desert she has chosen to disturb this sunrise, it is mine.
When I asked her to please turn off her car’s music she acted surprised that anyone was sleeping in the tent. She accommodated my request graciously, apologized and went back to painting.
And then I heard it. A breeze over the top of the dune. A few sea birds calling. The shhh of the sea reaching the shore.