The phenomenon of social distancing following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has badly affected the community gatherings and activities. Different community groups have, however, been coming up with new and novel ideas to keep themselves engaged.
Qatar Natural History Group (QNHG) is one of the oldest community groups and has been active in the country for over 40 years.
With the lockdown starting in March and strict observance of physical distancing, the group could not carry out its usual weekly meetings. They, however, came up with new ideas of holding online session on different topics related to nature and history of Qatar.
The QNHG recently concluded its special summer outings programme to discover the desert and heritage sites. With the phased lifting of the restrictions, the group has planned some special outdoor activities for its members. They took the members to different areas of the desert to observe the nature at the time of sunrise and sunset.
Thierry Lesales, QNHG chairman, said: “Usually, our season runs from October to June, but because of the lockdown in March, we could no longer have our regular talks and rambles. We were only able to have our talks online, through the Zoom platform. We are very grateful to our speakers who have accepted to adapt to the change. Topics included the Covid-19 pandemic, the prehistoric population of Qatar, reptiles, sea turtles, and the global climate movement.”
In August, outdoor gatherings were allowed with less than 30 people. QNHG took the opportunity to invite its members and the general public to discover the desert in the heart of the summer. The participants had to respect social distancing and wear face masks.
“The outings were scheduled early in the morning, for the sunrise, or late in the afternoon, for the sunset. It’s a good way to beat the heat and observe some of the animals in the desert. The animals are also active when the temperatures are lower. They spent the rest of the day, hidden in their burrows or under the shade.
“The desert is full of life. Qatar has some incredible ecosystems with organisms very well adapted to the harsh conditions. The end of August also marks the beginning of the bird migrations. Thousands of birds are passing through the peninsula, on their way down to their wintering grounds in Africa.
“It’s an exciting time to observe new visitors, and another opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Many of the new visitors can be seen in the public parks, for instance, the hoopoes, the wagtails, and the warblers,” Thierry noted.
He added: “We were very pleased with the response and positive feedback. People were happy to go out and reconnect to nature. It’s also a very good stress relieving pastime, and the temperatures were actually surprisingly very pleasant early in the morning and late afternoon. In the desert, we noticed, on average, 4C difference with the temperatures in the city. It’s doable. The sceneries and the colours are just fantastic.”
The outdoor summer programme included; a visit to Dahl al Misfr Cave, Purple Island sunrise walk, some Rawdat sunrise and sunset walks, Perseids meteor shower stargazing evening, a birdwatching trip, and a tour of little known forts and abandoned villages.
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