The thin, pocked strip of asphalt on the way to Fuwairit is unlined and informal, the edges disappearing into the desert in places. It’s flanked on the south side by a line of mundane electricity poles, and reminds me so much of county backroads in Texas that I’m momentarily confused when the camels and date palms come onto the horizon. The road dead-ends into a large concrete compound, and you can turn right into the little town south of the site, probably also called Fuwairit. We invariably turn left, passing a walled graveyard where we look for a little lilith owl that perches in the same spot every day. It’s a good day when she’s there–she doesn’t like the wind and rain.
It’s been unusually rainy in Qatar, and we’ve been chased from site more than once by winds that have nearly blown me off my little survey tell, and leaves my face red and stinging. Tuesday was nearly windless, and the silence was incredible. Two flocks of goats are shepherded by the site each morning and I could hear them coming from miles away. There was a donkey lowing somewhere over the horizon, and the occasional rooster crowing from the town of Fuwairit. The pace of work immediately picked up, and the amorphous sand dunes turned into geometry, rectangle compounds built next to each other, interior rooms and the occasional alleyway becoming clear under the big blue sky.
The sun bleaches out the sky by midday, leaving a gray, shiny haze hanging over the site. We leave the isolation of our respective ipods and chat about the site, or news, or nothing at all. I took a walk to the mangroves and the tide was incredibly high, gurgling and surging around the stems and crab holes and breaking a couple of meters from the edge of the site. The mangroves are an incredible relief to look at–you don’t realize how desert-blind you become after a while, everything washing to a series of light buff and dun-colored rocks–I briefly wondered if this was why so many Middle Eastern cities were built from unadorned, tannish concrete.
Today we packed up a few minutes early so we could drive by the wells we think are associated with the site. People at these coastal sites had to go inland for water, and the wells were precious resources, generally protected by small forts. Almost invariably, these wells occur where the land rises 6 meters above the sea, behind a dusty, sparkly sheet of sabkha and onto the rocky core of the Qatari peninsula. The area around the well had a patch of green grass, with tufts of the purplish scrub poking through. We walked to the well and checked out the associated pile of rocks that looked like it had been bulldozed several times. As I walked back to the truck I looked more closely at the sparse grass–microscopic purple and yellow flowers were beginning to blossom, surrounded by the sand.