“What is there to do here?” I asked my new work colleague. I had been in Doha, Qatar for a total of two days. He scoffed and rolled his eyes.
“Absolutely nothing,” he stated. “This is the most boring city in the world.”
Days later, I realised he was not completely off the mark. For me, Doha was just another rapidly expanding city. It was the Qatari desert, a short drive from the centre of town, which both captured my attention and offered a plethora of activities that one could partake in.
The summer stretched on, day after day of searing heat. Come August, the weather finally started to turn and it was decided that a group of us would go camping in the desert, by the sea. We were chauffeured by a pair of Qatari natives with giant 4WDs. They took the opportunity to go dune bashing, speeding down the sides of the immense mountains of sand and laughing at our screams of delight.
Once there, we immediately shed our outer garments and ran to the ocean. Clothing was regulated within the parameters of the city, but out here, there were no rules. We could wear what we wished.
I sighed with delight as my body made first contact with the cool water. We bobbed around until after sundown; dodging jellyfish, chasing one another, or just simply floating on our backs, gazing upward at the sky. We were eventually summoned out of the water to chow down on some BBQ’d meat and trade stories over shisha.
It was well into the night when three of us decided to amble out into the desert, seating ourselves at the top of one of the sand dunes near camp. Here, away from the glow of the city, you could see the stars; a tapestry of bright lights that hung suspended above our heads. I instinctively searched for the Southern Cross constellation, but it was nowhere to be seen; I was gazing at a foreign sky in a land far from home.
As dawn began to break, we raced back to the sea. I drifted in the water, watching the sun peak over the horizon and there was something there, on the precipice of my mind; some sort of peace, or understanding. I knew soon I would have to leave the water and go back to the car, back to the city, back to the realities of living as an expat in the Middle East. But in that moment, life seemed infinite, everything was possible and for a brief period of time, I got a glimpse of something bigger than myself.
And this is why I travel; to be awed, to be humbled and for that sweet taste of gratitude that those moments in life leave upon your lips.