And I miss you/ Like the deserts miss the rainEverything but the Girl “Missing”
During my first year in Doha, it only rained one time. It was a cool spring night. I was at the Pearl siting outside smoking shisha. Then, suddenly, the rain started to come down.
At first, I was planning on waiting out the rain. After all, most of the “rain” that I experienced in Qatar, up until that point, had been a light sprinkling at best. Sometimes the scattered droplets would evaporate before hitting the ground.
However, on this particular night, the rain came down in a more substantial amount, forcing me and the other patrons of the restaurant to move inside. After about 20 minutes, the rain subsided, and I walked around the Pearl taking pictures of the puddles that formed. That was the only time it truly rained my first year in the city.
But this past week, it has rained three times!
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On Monday, at 3:30pm, I was teaching my afternoon Business English class and happened to gaze out of the window. There was a brownish overcast hue. This prompted me to ask my class, “Is it supposed to rain this evening?”
“No, teacher.” A student responded. “It’s probably just a dust storm.”
Sure enough, there was a dust storm whipping sand into the air, but this felt different. There seemed to be a charge that was building as the clouds rolled in.
At 5pm, I had to teach my fourth and last class of the day. By this time, the wind had picked up even more, and it definitely felt like the portent of a thunderstorm.
My male students gradually trickled into the classroom during the first 10 minutes of class. We were working on a practice midterm, and I noticed the wind was howling outside of the building. Maybe it wasn’t going to rain because the students were coming to class; I was told by more experienced teachers that attendance drops precipitously when there is rain in Qatar. Or, maybe because it was midterm week, the students were so focused on their exams that they didn’t want to relish the rain.
The winds outside picked up even more, and thunder started to boom. Still, the students were quite focused on completing their practice midterm. The outside winds and the rains almost had a calming effect on them. Maybe because the October rains signaled the end of the summer heat and the start of the cooler winter weather.
While they were occupied with comparative and superlative adjectives, I slipped downstairs and stepped outside. Lightning and thunder kept going off in succession, and there was a light sprinkle of rain.
That night as I drove a colleague home after classes, lightning lit up the sky over the Arabian Gulf as we cruised down the Lusail Expressway.
When I got home, the water from my balcony had seeped through my door frame soaking my bedroom curtains via capillary action. I removed the wet curtain and began to mop up the puddle.
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On Thursday, at 11am, I was heading to work to meet the business English course lead. I had been appointed as the co-lead to the course, and we were having our first meeting to discuss course matters. As I was driving to work, there were gray clouds in the distance and a peculiar hue to the sky. However, it already rained once this week—would it rain again?
My course lead and I were discussing business English matters, when all of a sudden, thunder erupted, and the rain started pouring down. I looked outside to see the female students outside slowly make their way into the nearest building. Some of them were using a purse or a laptop bag to shield their makeup from the downpour. Their abiyas fluttering behind them revealing their high heels and denim jeans.
In about 15 minutes, though, the torrent ended.
When I left the meeting, it was slightly more humid outside, and my car, which I just washed the day before, was streaked by dust and rain.
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Saturday morning, from my apartment window on the 19thfloor, I could see that there was a gray hue outside. By now I trusted my perception at gauging looming rain. As I made a breakfast hash, the rain started to fall over Lusail, and the wind blew the rain sideways against my apartment windows like some Jackson Pollack action painting.
A little after the rain started, I dared to open my apartment windows to welcome some fresh air. Normally, throughout the year, I don’t open my windows because there is usually so much sand and dust being whipped about my residence from the desert and the construction sites neighboring my building. However, the rain tamped these particulates from the air, and I was able to enjoy a refreshing breeze throughout my apartment for the very first time.
The rain continued for an hour or so and huge puddles in the empty construction lots started to form. I knew that this meant that the roads and highways would be flooded. You see, in the Qatar the ground is quite dry and not good at absorbing water quickly. Additionally, in Doha, there is a lot of cement and asphalt which channels the rain into lower lying areas where it overwhelms the drainage system and floods.
I was content to hide out in my apartment for most of the day, thus avoiding any perils that awaited on the roads. However, by the afternoon, I was starting to get a little stir crazy, so I rode the elevator to the ground floor and started up my Challenger.
Around Lusail, the roads were still damp, and there was some debris that had been blown into the streets. As I drove further away from my neighborhoods, there were larger puddles that had formed into the road, and I swerved a couple times to splash through them with my car. I kept driving and nothing seemed that out of the ordinary, until I rounded the corner near the edge of the Qatar University campus. The ad hoc filling station that sits on the edge of a desert parcel was completely flooded. The station attendants were wading around in the water that went up to their knees. I continued to drive and saw the event tents set up in the desert across from QU. One of the tents had been blown open and the carpets and majlis seating were exposed to the elements.
During my cruise, I decided that I would stop and stock up on drinking water, so I veered into an Al Meera supermarket that was along the way. There was moat that had formed across the road, and I was forced to drive through in order to gain entrance to the parking lot of the store. Once parked, I dashed from my car into the store. In various aisles of the store, there were buckets set up to catch water from the leaking ceiling. Sealing building roofs in Qatar for rainfall isn’t usually a high construction priority, given that the Doha sees an average of 3 inches of water annually. However, when it does rain, these building oversights are quite conspicuous.
I headed back to my car after buying my drinking water. The English radio station was on and my windshield wipers soon lulled me with their metronomic sway. I could have driven in the rain for a while longer, but I didn’t want to get surprised by a washed-out road, so I headed back to my apartment.
After surviving the summer months of Qatar, there is something refreshing and jovial about a day’s rainfall. Much like a warm spring day after a cold snowy winter would invigorate people back in the Midwest, a cool October rainfall seems to have a similar effect on people tired of the desert oppression. Several thunderstorms in one week are a welcomed event.
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Since I started writing this post, it has rained one more time. If you would like to see some of the social media footage from the flooding please check out the following link.