Dust storms, called shama’al in Arabic, are not an uncommon occurrence here. Every few months or so we endure through them. Although they can occur any time of year, they are more prevalent in the hot summer months. The past week, we were witness to one of the largest and fiercest storms this area has seen in years. The winds traveling at 70-75 km/h affected not only Qatar, but bought life to a standstill in many parts of Kuwait as well. Driving here is challenging as it is, but during these storms, which brings blinding winds and causes visibility to become drastically low, it becomes extremely dangerous. Yet there is also a certain beauty to them, especially when encountered in the vast open and unpopulated landscape. The billowing golden sand gracefully sweeps across the black tarmac of the roads, resembling waves of the ocean. It is surreal, and paradoxically serene.
The storm comes when least expected, suddenly creeping up on us and unleashing its fury. Doors and windows start shaking and knocking. Winds will start howling, wreaking havoc and bringing with it swirls upon swirls of sand and grit, enveloping everything within its reach. It affects us more since we live in a relatively less populated area on the outskirts of Doha, where there is an abundance of open land.
There will be a layer of dust over every single item inside the home. It even manages to find its way inside closed closets and cupboards. Keeping the house clean is a nightmare; I have to sweep the floor every few hours, especially around the windows and doors. In order to prevent dust from coming in, I have dust blockers on the doors and even stuff newspapers into the cracks and crevices, but to no avail. The dust, as fine as talcum powder, manages to seep in through even the thinnest cracks. The children will sometimes wear socks and skate on it. At times like these, I wish I had a full time, live-in maid, but only at times like these. I still cannot wrap my western brain around the fact that someone who I don’t know and am not related to will be living with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week - yet.