Sunshine, sand and sea, you’d think that combination should pretty much deliver the same outcome every time, however at the day at the beach in Qatar couldn’t be further from a day in Garrettstown or Spanish Point.
Qatar is a peninsula off Saudi Arabia and being one of the hottest locations on earth you would think that the coastline would be strewn with friendly beach resorts and tourist havens, not the case. From Doha you need to travel about one hour into the desert to reach a beach and they are nothing like the hospitable shores of Spain or Portugal. On our virgin voyage to the enjoy the sandy dunes of Qatar we made the journey through the desert, car laden down with every kind of beach apparel imaginable and enough sandwiches to feed a county, the excitement was palpable despite the fact that we hadn’t met a car on the road for twenty five miles and there the only sign that man had been there before was the occasional camel crossing sign. We arrived at the beach. Fifty four degrees was the temperature reading on the car and “bleak” was the reading on the beach. Determined to have an enjoyable family day out on the beach, we bounded from the car and hauled all the gear into the hot, hot sand, which was populated by about 17 other people. It was when I realised that the other six women on the beach were wearing full Abaya dress that my polka dot bikini felt very inappropriate. No commercialism, no capitalism and no cover, this wasn’t for me. Despite making every effort to have a traditional day out, even the picnic, buckets and spades and an itchy rug couldn’t make up for the lack of joie de vive on the beach that day as I watched two women cool their feet in the waters, while they lifted their black shrouds from the tepid waves. While the ambient temperature was now 48°c the atmosphere was cold. Pulling my glitzy kafkan over my dotty bikini, I told the high road back to the city.
Still on the quest for the day at the beach, it was the lucky Tuesday that mine eyes cast upon this advertisement, “500m of man-made sandy beach, comfortable sun-loungers, 3 spectacular chilled swimming pools, cocktail bar, snack bar, fully leisure area with spa pools and excellent changing facilities”, I think I found it, the perfect day at the beach! Tatty beach towels and book in hand, I hurried along to the concierge at the Intercontinental Hotel, West Bay, Doha and asked where I could find this haven. Walking rather gliding through the pool area, I wowed at the sunken cocktail bar at water level, things were looking up. Walking towards the sea, I noticed the deep cushioned leather mattress on the sun-loungers, the thick purple towels, beautifully manicured grass areas; the sand looked like every little stone had been sieved out. I deserve this, we deserve as a family I told myself, but on reading the fee structure for families I decided on the cinema instead. Leaving the foyer, head hung low and feeling hard done by I walked towards the exit, a tanned lady wearing a sunhat held the door open for me, she smiled and said “hello, I haven’t seen you here before”, Through my pain I replied, “no, I’m not a member”, “Neither am I she replied, I just come for ladies day on Tuesdays, it’s free”. I’m not sure if it was the brightness of the sun or truly the light at the end of the tunnel but heavenly music played in my head as I floated back into the Bay Club and requested my thick purple towel. Obviously I was going to have to tell a milky white lie to my family about my whereabouts that day, but the salty sea and the non-alcoholic cosmopolitan washed away all the guilt. Propped up beneath the shade of a beautifully-made straw umbrella, I enjoyed the view of the Doha Skyline in the distance and while I vaguely missed the warm and salty, slightly sandy egg sandwiches, my open crabmeat on rye was a good compensation.