Saturday, 20 April 2013

It never rains but......

As you might expect, rain in the desert is rare, so as a committed 'bad' weather enthusiast, it was in my top 5 sacrifices when deciding to come and live in Doha for a while.  In fact, my sister in law asked me that very question at a family dinner to celebrate my departure..... "What will you miss the most?...other than family and friends of course?"....... "Rain and cycling" I replied,  rather assuming I'd have to wait until my return to the UK for any significant precipitation!

This was confirmed by all my early conversations with anyone I could find - taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, shop assistants and work colleagues..... "does it rain here.... at all..... ever?".  The response was pretty universal.... "not really, its more like mist than rain", or "can't remember" and then this week, I mentioned to a colleague that it was forecast to rain heavily the next day.  She said "oh reeeaaaally?" as if I'd told her the martians were about to land in the Al Jazeera car park or that we were about to experience an earthquake...... now who would believe that??!

"So when did you last have heavy rain?", I asked her.....   "errrrrrr.....mmmmm....errrrrr......oh, yes it was......... two years ago!"  What?  Two years ago?  OK, so proper rain here is indeed rare.  So the question was, was the forecast right?  Would the long awaited downpour really come?

That night, just after midnight, it did indeed come.....along with an impressive thunder storm, and the most incredible lightning I'd ever seen, lighting up the whole city.  So I rushed for my iphone and stood on my balcony (maybe not the best idea in such a violent storm) and captured this photo.  The storm didn't last too long but was fun while it did!  

It reminded me of when I was a child and my Dad used to take me to the window during a thunder storm to watch the lightning and count the seconds until the thunder, to measure how far away the storm was and whether it was heading our way.  I think it was my Dad's enthusiasm for storms and bad weather which rubbed off on me.  To the extent that in another life, I'd love to be a storm chaser in the USA, following tornadoes and hurricanes around the country.  There is something incredibly thrilling and strangely comforting about the raw power of nature.

But that one storm was not it.... the next day, I was on the AJ balcony, the heat was incredible and humidity building and the sky was heavy with tension.  I could see another storm in the distance heading our way....the wind got up and became quite ferocious.  The mixture of the wind and the heat was like opening a fan oven door..... and then one or two big drops of rain started appearing on the balcony floor, then a few more and more until the deluge.......... I went undercover.  The funniest thing happened...... a dozen or more staff, mainly brits, appeared running onto the balcony like excited kids....squealing, feeling the rain, taking photos of it !!  OK, now I believe its rare. 

However, it wasn't like ordinary fresh, sweet smelling, cleansing rain - no, this was a strange warm wet sludge.  The wind had whipped up a sandstorm which then got washed down with the rain as wet dust so when I went back inside, I noticed little sandy dots all over my shoes and top.  When I went outside to the car park later, all the cars were smeared with a fine covering of sludge.....heaven knows what that does to your paint job! (The cars looked exactly like this one, pictured following a similar storm in Phoenix, Arizona... ).

So what next? .... well, it would be nice to think that the unpredictable weather might continue, but alas,  it looks like wall to wall sunshine for the next week at least....... what a shame...... only another two years to wait.


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