1 — THE JOURNEY
My body is cramped from sitting for days in the same position.
I am vacuum-packed in cotton cloth and scarfs
to protect myself from small rocket attacks of sand,
propelled by the biting wind.
The arid climate is hard to deal with.
The heat weighs heavily on my body and prevents my mind from concentrating.
Our caravan has been silent since the day we set out two weeks ago.
Has it been that long? It feels like a month, a year.
Yet, I remember the day we left as if it was yesterday.
Time becomes an abstraction in the desert.
The blank pages of my logbook are as empty as the desert itself.
Fragments and words are scattered like small oases on the white sheets of paper.
The scarf I am wearing covers my face except for a narrow horizontal strip that allows me to see.
My eyes provide the only entertainment during this endless trip.
The view is uniform: a broad strip of blue (80%) and a narrow strip of yellow (20%)
divided by an invisible horizontal line.
The saturated blue sky burns my eyes.
The variations in the color of the sand — from white, to yellow, to orange —
act as a timeline and guide me through the day.
10:05 broken white
12:43 bright white
16:21 lemon yellow
16:21 golden yellow
16:48 burning orange
16:21 faded orange
17:53 dust white
18:22 camel gray
19:03 dark gray
19:22 c:10 m:10 y:50 k:80
23:09 pitch black
The horizon, where white meets blue, is my point of focus.
For days we have been following this line in the hope it leads us to our destination, a better world
Today the landscape changed.
A range of rock formations suddenly arose from the desert sand,
each concealing in its shape and size an maginary character.
A reflection of my search for a new companion on this lonely journey.
I meet the characters again at night while surfing the black galactic screen.
They come alive and talk to me with the crackling of the campfire.
White days. Black nights.
After weeks of ‘whiteness’ in all its variations, we finally arrive at our destination.
The end of our quest is a place where the blue of the sky meets the blue of the sea.
This place is called Al Bida.
The people who live here have settled in tents and simple dwellings built from mud,
stone and coral.
Small boats float on the blue, mirror-like surface of the sea.
This small community makes its living diving for shells.
Rock-like shells that hold pearls the color of snow.
Later they would discover a far greater source of wealth,
buried deep beneath the dust of the virgin desert sand.
2 — THE INVASION
One night I meet an alien.
His face is delineated by stars.
He has a bright, funny nose, the polar star.
He tells me we could be friends as he will soon be living in the neighborhood.
He tells me stories in which he predicts a new world: bigger, faster and better.
His words are confirmed by a major announcement I read in the newspaper the next morning:
Monday, January 23th, 1982
SPACESHIP HEADING TOWARDS EARTH
A giant spaceship is heading toward Earth. At
present, the object is just moving past Mercury.
Judging by its speed, it should be on Earth by
February 1982. That’s been the speculation from
some corners after a camera onboard NASA’s
Stereo spacecraft caught a wave of electronically
charged material. Theorists have seized on the
images as suggestive of alien life hanging out in
our own cosmic backyard. The shape of the object
appears to be triangular. (A.V.)
During the nights that follow, the alien comes back as noise.
The clamor of drilling and hammering; the clanging of steel girders.
The new sounds announce activity on an invisible wharf.
The stars are the sole witnesses of this nightly construction —
the clandestine emergence of a magnificent spacecraft.
Black crows screech as they fly above the invisible wharf. An omen of imminent danger?
The first black dot appears on the paper.
Is the dot the end of a sentence?
A signal to rest?
Or is it a starting point... for a line, for a new beginning?
For vertical growth?
This dot on the map of Qatar is located somewhere in the district of Doha.
This particular dot has the shape of a triangle; a pyramid.
It is on this dot that the alien invaders choose to settle their spaceship
after a long journey between star clusters and interstellar clouds.
It is Thursday, November 22th when a lizard awakens me.
He spits out a pearl and whispers in my ear:
The invaders have arrived
Five minutes later, I am out of the house in search of the new arrivals and my alien friend.
It is five in the morning and the sun has just come out to paint the sky
in shades that go from black to gray to white.
Slowly blue becomes blue and yellow becomes yellow.
My eyes scan the curved line of the corniche until I notice a majestic shape at the end of the line:
The triangular-shaped dot
I observe the immense spaceship that has landed on the shores of Doha,
at the point where land and sea converge.
It is standing like a big bird resting after a long journey through the galactic landscape.
The shadow of its majestic body feels threatening.
Its corpus, a pattern of windows slightly squinted to the right,
appears as if the wind had blown all its feathers in the same direction.
Nevertheless, the bird is strong: capable of withstanding all winds and storms.
But, where are the aliens?
And is this bird dangerous?
Is it a friend or an enemy?
I tilt my head upwards to look at the bird’s face.
It is staring into the horizon with a serious fixed gaze.
It is facing the Persian Gulf.
Is it a guardian, a protector?
I wonder if I can catch its attention;
if I can communicate with it.
a Trojan horse?
I walk around the structure searching for an entrance.
The facade resembles a pyramid.
I try to imagine all the treasures hidden inside this temple:
dazzling mirrors, hordes of gold, glittering gems and diamonds.
All the riches and romance of Arabia as perceived by the West.
3 — THE REPORT
Back home, I close the door, make coffee and begin to write:
Thursday, February 22th, 1982
SHERATON INVADES DOHA
This morning marked the official inauguration of
the Doha Sheraton Hotel in the presence of Sheikh
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. This pyramidal landmark
on the shores of the crescent-shaped Doha Bay is a
symbol of the Persian Gulf State. The hotel, designed
by American architect William Pereira, is the first
progressive architectural building in Doha. According
to the Emir’s speech, more of this bijoux architecture
will follow in the future. The hotel features 371 guest
rooms, including a select collection of 64 luxury suites,
concealing a magical world of Arabian luxury. A
prominent venue for international conferences, it will
also function as the world’s gateway to Qatar.
Looking at the photos and blueprints on my desk, I think to myself:
Doha has entered a new era: