OK, I’m Irish, right?
People from Ireland simply cannot start a conversation without talking about the weather. It’s our icebreaker, our common ground. Safe, uncontroversial, and, broadly speaking, something you can cover quickly before you start gossiping about illicit affairs and the goings on in Number 6 down the road.
Howaya! Fierce hot today?
Morning! Great drying weather isn’t it?
Hiya. Never seen rain like the last couple of days. Have you?
So, where better to start looking at life in Qatar but the weather?
Let’s start with the bleeding obvious: it’s hot.
I’m sure you’re all nodding right now, thinking, “Is she serious? She’s seriously going to write a post about the heat. It’s the desert for crying out loud!”
But this is a new hot. This isn’t 25 degrees hot, Jean-Byrne-earnestly-stating-Met-Éireann-weather-warnings*, most likely while wrapped in tin foil, hot. This is HOT. Searing blazing, growing by the day hot. You measure the temperature not in degrees but in number of seconds it takes for pools of sweat to gather on your back between the car and your air conditioned destination (if you’re blessed enough not to be on the school run).
The reality is that once it gets over 39/40 degrees, added temperature isn’t really measurable. Your life moves indoors, if you’re privileged enough not to be working outside in the searing heat. You don’t need sunscreen at this stage because quite frankly you’d drop from heat stroke before you’d get a sun burn.
The heat also causes some life lessons:
- You will say the words, “Close the door, you’re letting the heat in.”
- Toothpaste goes so hot that it drips off your toothbrush before you can get it into your mouth.
- Speaking of toothpaste, you will get used to brushing your teeth with hot water, because that’s all that’s available in the taps.
- Your air conditioners are on all the time, even though your skin crawls at the feel of the cold air on your skin.
- You will only once in your life take a swig from a bottle of water that’s been left in the car.
- Seat belt buckles get scorchingly hot in the sun. So does a steering wheel.
- To counter the previous problems people will leave air conditioning on during school pick ups. Yes, that means leaving the keys in the car. Yes, your car is then unlocked. Yes, I have seen a Porsche sitting empty with the engine running. No, car theft is not a thing in Doha.
And did I mention that it’s getting hotter, or maybe not that much hotter (although it’s still on average about 5 degrees shy of the 50 degree record), but rather more humid and more uncomfortable? As I’ve been hearing since we landed in March:
Summer is Coming. Three little words said by experienced expats without a trace of malice but gentle warning that “if you think it’s hot now, you ain’t seen nothing yet missy.”
Worse yet, I was told last week that September is also fairly hot and humid and miserable. Great.
I said there was more than just heat, didn’t I? Well, a new state of weather I’d never experienced before was “sandy”. By this it means visibility halves, dust devils fly over open ground and your car looks like those rare occasions at home when the Sahara dumps its sand on us, after just one day. You get your car washed at least once a week to deal with this.
Sandy also means your garden is dusty, the house gets dusty and you have a lovely wind brushed face after a walk on a sandy day. Who needs expensive exfoliator, right?
It does rain here. Actually, just to welcome us, it rained on St Patrick’s Day. A little taste of home. And much like snowy days in Ireland, the city ground to a resounding stop. Perhaps not unreasonably.
The water table in the ground is high, so one heavy rainfall leaves swimming pools scattered around the city. Great if you’re driving a Land Cruiser, not so great if you’re in a regular car, unless you fancy an impromptu swim.
People also don’t drive for the rain. And that sand I mentioned above makes the roads turn into an ice skating rink when it’s wet. You can imagine the rest.
Thankfully, it’s a desert, so not something that we need to worry about too often.
Is it all bad?
For everything I wrote above, you might think Qatar sounds like hell on earth, but it’s surprising how quickly you acclimatize to your surroundings. Evenings of 35 degrees are gorgeous to stroll around in. Lovely breezes sometimes sweep in off the sea and make the air feel fresher and more comfortable.
Simon tells me that last November there were people wearing fleeces in Doha. I laughed at the time, but can see now how 25 degrees could feel positively cold. Just wait until I visit Dublin in September and write complaining about how an Indian Summer in Ireland is like Arctic conditions!
Next time, let’s talk about driving. Buckle up and wait for it!
- Those who don’t know Jean Byrne. Google her. She’s a true Irish icon.