Cord and I started the day well; we were knocking out the rest of spot heights and picking up a few walls that we didn’t get during our general walkover. The initial survey of Fuwairit is pretty much finished and it is mostly piece work from here on out. While I was punching buttons I was listening to yet another Radio Lab episode–about Zoos–and the day was starting to get hot.
About a hundred meters to my east some Qatari guys got stuck in the wet sand on the beach and a few other cars came out to help them, until there were about 10 guys standing around, yelling. Another SUV came driving up along the road to the west of the site, and I assumed they were coming to help as well.
The road to the west has become a bit of an issue–yesterday we came out to site to discover some construction workers surveying along its length. The day before I had written a recommendation to fence and preserve the site and the road is inside the proposed fence line, running through some middens so we were pretty worried. Qatari construction seems like it happens in a blink of an eye (I’ve now seen several major highway overpasses completely finished in less than a month) and even if the road only skirts the site the associated construction around the road annihilates most things in a wide swath around it on both sides.
With this somewhere in the back of my mind, I continue surveying. The SUV starts swerving oddly, coming up to park on site, then turning around and zooming off. It does this several times, but I’m trying to concentrate on work, so I try not to pay them too much mind.
Suddenly, I pull the headphone from my ear–that was a shot. Or at least, I’m pretty sure, so I duck down and turn around to see what was going on. Another couple of shots, and the SUV is swerving around madly. I go to get Cordelia.
We watch them from afar for a moment, then venture back to the total station. Cord uses the scope to check them out and reports that they’re chasing down and killing the wildlife–the driver was leaning out of his window with a pistol. Soon he hits his target, jumps out of the SUV, holds up a bird and laughs. They zoom off and we go back to work. During the Zoo episode the Radiolab guys say something like, “When did our (read: white, western, urban) relationship to animals change from one of brutality to protection?” and I wondered why it made me so angry that these dudes were randomly shooting animals.
I was still turning it over in my mind when they came back, this time going into one of the big, walled-in cemeteries west of the site. It was where our little lilith owl lived and both Cord and I watched them as they stalked through the cemetery, dreading what was surely going to happen next. Thankfully, no shots were fired and the guys zoomed off again to harass some other small creatures.
The Qataris to our east finally got their truck out of the sand and I was suddenly struck by this odd sense of recognition–who knew that the hinterland of northern Qatar would be a lot like backwoods Texas?
(update: we went back later that evening for a site tour, then a fish/crab roast on the beach. On our way to the site we noticed our little owl, perched on the cemetery wall. Alhamdulillah.)