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Afghanistan Update 8

R & R Trip to Qatar

For service members with 6-months or more are given a 4-day pass to Doha Qatar. The Service does an excellent job providing for some down time.

The photo is of LTC (Father) Joe Flurey and Bill Cooley on a Dhow cruse in Doha.

Afghanistan Update #8
Sunday, October 23, 2005

Family and Friends,

I know it may sound like whining… but I’ve been working long (~15 hour) days since I arrive -- so when the opportunity came up to have four days rest & relaxation (R&R) in Qatar, I took it. The attached photos document my trip to Qatar from 11 – 16 Oct 05.

After getting to Bagram Air Base (45 min North of Kabul), I flew C-17 style (see photo) to Qatar… about 3.5 hours. By the time we settled in our rooms, it was ~ 0330, and given that breakfast ended at 0830, it was a short night.

Although the photos don’t do it justice… I had a great time discussing theology with my R&R room-mate and Catholic Priest / Chaplain, Father Joe Fleury. We had a great time discussing the mystery of theology and faith. Even though he had not read Marcus Borg, we connected well. Fleury serves in the remote areas of Afghanistan and deals with the death of US soldiers, but more often, US soldiers dealing with the killing Al Qaeda members. Joe is a great human being and friend.

One the first day we liked up with the Catholic Chaplain at As Salaya who drove us to the Doha gold market and then to the mall. It was amazing to visit the four-story Doha center mall complete with ice ring in the center; the only difference between it and any mall in the states were 1) about half the shoppers were wearing black berkas (traditional Qatari women) or white sheik attire (Qatari men), and 2) there was a store named “My Fair Lady” that sold black berkas. Other than that… you would have thought you were in Kansas City.

Qatar is an interesting country in that only ~ 25% of the population are Qatari citizens. Like Saudi Arabia, citizens get numerous benefits from the government, $16,000 wedding dowry, free electricity, education, entertainment in the form of a paid vacation. The remaining ~75% of the population are from other eastern or middle eastern countries… they get none of the Qatari citizen benefits, even if they were born there.

On the second day Joe and I went on a dhow cruise. A dhow is “an Arab lateen-rigged boat usually having a long overhang forward, a high poop, and a low waist.” I was great to get out on the Persian Gulf, relax, swim, eat, and enjoy the sun. Fortunately it was only about 90 degrees -- during the summer it reaches ~ 120!

On the third day, we drove south to within 2 km of Saudi Arabia, across the sand dunes to reach the beach. Interestingly, the SUVs we were in stopped once we entered the sand dunes and deflated their tires significantly to enable better traction in the sand.

On our way to the beach we came across a Qatari stuck in the sand (see photo) and helped him get his 4WD SUV out. Once there, the beach site was set up with an annoyed camel, traditional Qatari food, and a very secluded beach. In addition to the dozens of sand rays we saw, I was stung by a jelly fish (only slightly on the ankle while walking in very shallow water).

The next day I spent relaxing a the pool, reading, and discussing theology with Joe. All in all, one of the most relaxing breaks I’ve had!

PHOTOS: I’ve included some photos of my trip with a brief description below.

1) C-17 Airlines… really not too bad. If you want to sleep, just lay on the floor!

2) Doha from the dhow. Doha is striving to become a major conference center for the middle east and is very west-leaning.

3) Swimming in the Persian Gulf. Turns out Joe is a first rate tri-athlete.

4) Driving across Qatar desert just north of Saudi Arabia.

5) US Soldiers helping extract an SUV.

6) A talkative camel as the beach welcome committee.

7) Traditional food served beach-side.

8) Sand rays only ~ 5 feet from the shore line.

9) Half-way through Ramadan… the full moon over the beach shortly after sunset.

Hope you are all doing well and I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you soon. God Bless.