Sometimes Serendipity is the Best Guide

Sometimes the trip you plan is not the one that happens. We’ve found when travelling that flexibility is essential, or frustration will be your constant companion.

We headed out to find an historical fort one day over the holidays. Dave was thinking it might make a good field trip for his class.  It’s called Al Zubarah and is on the west coast of Qatar. To get there we had to cross from one side of this enormous peninsula to the other. It took about 45 minutes. Just so you have your bearings straight, when you’re on the west coast of Qatar and you are looking off the shore, you might just see Bahrain. There used to be a ferry crossing to Bahrain and there has been talk of a bridge being built, although I do believe that the idea has been indefinitely shelved.

This fort at one time was used to rule over  Bahrain (1700’s) and on this stood out against the bluest sky. The fort was closed due to a renovation that was being lead by Copenhagen University, but there wasn’t anyone there to stop us from going in so Dave walked by the “closed” sign and had a look.  The rule follower stayed at the door and just peaked.  As we were looking around a couple of Dutch archeologist-type men arrived looking every bit like they walked out of a Raider’s of the Lost Ark movie. Complete with scarves! The renovation will go on until the spring so no field trip this year.

Striking out a little bit we continued north along the west coast.

A couple of kilometres away we found a completely abandoned town. We had no idea what it was or what had gone on there. I can honestly say it was the first time I felt unsafe since we’ve arrived. It was hauntingly isolated and we could hear some young Qataris having a party just on the other side of the wall around this town. I doubt they posed any threat but I was acutely aware of how vulnerable we were. My imagination enjoyed torturing me a little here.

My friend Google tells me that this is a remnant fishing village from the fishing and pearl harvesting days and was likely abandoned first in 1937, re-inhabited in 1945, and then finally deserted again in the 1970’s. No doubt this has to do with finding natural gas. There are 3 villages (although we only saw one) and they are now archeological sites – that we can WALK ALL OVER! And sadly that people have littered and graffitied somewhat. Kind of disheartening.

We wandered around a bit then continued down the coast.

Here we found a lovely little town – to our relief it was very inhabited. It was a national holiday so there were families enjoying the waterfront and bbq’s and their children and all was right with the world again.

The tide was out and people were walking way out to dip their toes in the water and the marooned fishing boats were quite a sight.

A lovely gracious Qatari man offered to share his family’s picnic with us. So kind. We politely declined and thanked him for the offer. Someone should tell him that in Canadian culture you can’t say ‘yes’ on the first ask. “No, no, I couldn’t impose.” “sure come and eat with us.” “oh I couldn’t possibly.” …how many does it take to make a Canadian say “really? are you sure? well thank you, I’d love to!”  That’s how an invitation happens “Canadian Style”.   I know you think you’d have said yes right away, but I bet you wouldn’t have. We wished we did.

There a number of Canadian-ism that are becoming obvious when held against the behaviours of the other cultures around us. Some of them I’m proud of – some of them I’m working on shedding.

Here are Dave’s pictures of the day. And by the way – there is one very glaring problem with him being the only one taking pictures, and I know that.


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10 responses to “Sometimes Serendipity is the Best Guide

  1. Mandy J

    wait, wait… i can’t get past the 3rd paragraph… dave walked past the closed sign, and you are the rule follower? what has the middle east done to you!?!?

    • It’s a little known fact, but a fact none the less. Complete stops, blinkers always, if it says ‘don’t go in’ you just don’t go in. It’s actually a sickness. I’m happy I’ve made you think otherwise.

  2. Ronalda Jones

    As always, what a lovely, thoughtful blog. Much to think about regarding our ‘Canadainisms’ that need culling. I often thought that the “No, no, I couldn’t.” is one that cuts us off from sharing ourselves. Sad really.
    I have spent a fair amount of time with kids who ‘tag’ (read: graffiti). For them it is an expression of themselves, a way of being seen in a world that feels far too impersonal. So, yes it is a shame, but ‘reading’ the graffiti can uncover a world of insight, longing and pain. Our Mayor Ford is on a tear to eradicate graffiti – which I see as part of the Disneyfication of Toronto. The crew recently erased several beautiful paintings put up at the local high school in remembrance of their young friend who was killed. The young painters stood there with tears running down their faces. A lesson in impermanence perhaps, but also a painful reminder that the adults don’t take their expression of pain and loss seriously.
    Reading your blog is a joy.
    Love across the miles – Ronalda

    • Very sad for the kids, for sure. We do tend to trample on them don’t we? I agree there aren’t enough places for their expressions, and I do enjoy the beauty and message of some tagging. It has become quite an art form over the years. I will hold to the fact that an archeological site might not be the place.
      But I will also reflect on whether I’m being too precious about the past and not reverential enough about the present. Thank you for your insights. Sending love back across the miles.

  3. Noreen Smith

    I enjoyed your holiday…maybe becoming a tour guide or writing for a travel agency is on the horizon for you 😉
    the pics of the fort look like sand castles to me..

  4. Terri McCallum

    Looks very calming!! Lots of sand, lots of water, a few palm trees……I can feel the warming sun….( It’s 38 degrees farenheit here Tracie! )

  5. Johnny MacDonald

    Really amazing, almost surreal. Thanks for sharing Tracie!

  6. Sara Willms

    I love love love love love the photos!! LOVE them. I want to come visit, with a fully charge camera battery, a couple [hundred] rolls of film, a few memory cards. GAH.

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