DAHL AL HAMAM, QATAR

 

 
Text and Photos ©2010 by Chris Killey

 


 

PHOTO GALLERY

Mohamed Sheikh Al-Sabri inside Dahl Hamam.

Flowers in Dahl Hamam Park

Chris Killey heads for the pond.

Crystal Clear water deep inside the cave.

A view of Dahl Hamam Park

Heading out of the cave and back to air conditioning.

 


 

 

 
A Cave in the Middle of Doha City



By Chris Killey


13 August 2010

It’s 7:00 AM on a steamy hot and humid Friday 13th. I’m driving in the middle of Doha City. It’s sleepy quiet on the streets – two days into the holy month of Ramadan. Temperature has reached 35 already as I pull into the Family Section Gate of the Dahl Al Hamam Family Park on Al Markhiya Street.

I park beside a tiny guard house and hear laughter coming from inside – two guards – one of them spots me and they open the door. “Salam alaikum and good morning.” Not much English language here. I ask about Dahl Hamam.
“Yes - Dahl Hamam Park.” he replies.
“Where is the Dahl?” I ask.

I’d searched on Google for the sinkhole and pinpointed it right bang slap in the middle of this tourist park, on the corner of (of course) the busy Dahl Al Hamam roundabout.


“No speak English.” – he replies.
I repeat - “Yes - Arabi – Dahl?”

Recognition in his eyes – he grins and points over through some trees. The park offers beautiful flower gardens and shrubs surrounded by grassy lawns and trees, meandering concrete skateboard canals, playground swings etc. During the cooler months of the year the park will be well used and enjoyed by many families.

“Can I go down?” I ask, pointing down to the ground.
“No” he says “Closed.”
“When open?” I ask.
“Not open – only look over.” he replies.
“Not open?” I persevere...
He shakes his head.
“Never open?” I press him further.
“Never.” he replies with a smile.

I decide to investigate anyway – there’s laughter – “Can I go there now?”
“Yes – Yes”.
“OK to drive?” I ask - pretending to drive a car, “or walking?” - pointing to my feet.
“No drive” – he says, and then “OK” pointing to his feet.
“OK Shukran” and I head for the trees.

By now the perspiration is rolling down my face as I follow the carefully manicured pathways through the gardens. The irrigation water sprays are cooling on my skin – I wonder where it’s re-cycled from.....




 

I reach a high netting fence encircling a gravel area about 50 meters across. The high iron-grilled entrance gate is padlocked. In the center of the enclosure is the sinkhole. A concrete pathway leads from the entrance gate to the sinkhole opening. Steps and handrail disappear down into the black hole.

Not much more to see from outside the fence so I decide to explore the beautifully tended gardens – a rare feature in this harsh summer environment. It’s deserted apart from one sole gardener raking leaves.



 

I head back to the guardhouse and again ask when the Dahl will be open.
“Never open.” he repeats.
I plead..... “Please can I go down?” pointing again to the ground.
He smiles.
“After tomorrow – big boss will come - maybe open” (he pretends to turn a key) “after 8 or 9 morning, something like that”.
Lots of Shukran’s and Ma’salamas .
Reviving in the air conditioned vehicle, I decide to wait for cooler weather before making a return trip.

 

October 2, 2010


Its 9 AM on hopefully a cooler Saturday and I’m driving again to Dahl Al Hamam Park. This time, Thania Freele comes along too. Thania is another keen explorer. She and her husband Morgan also spent many years working in Saudi Arabia, and enjoying the off-roading and camping adventures in the desert there.

We pull into the main entrance and hear voices coming from a nearby building. Greetings all round with the security guards and we ask to see the boss to unlock the entrance gate to the Dahl. Again, there’s not much English here, but Thania knows more Arabic than me and helps with the translation. No problem—one of the guards can take us. He gets up from the desk and walks with us to the garden pathways. He is Mohamed Sheikh Al-Sabri, from Sanaa in the Yemen. We comment on these beautiful gardens and he says we should also visit the Yemen because it is very nice there too!





We reach the entrance gate to the Dahl enclosure and he lets us through. The sinkhole opening is around 10x10 meters across and a rough estimate of 50-60 meters deep to the current base.
We all three go down the twenty steps to the edge of the slope and peer into the shadows below.

  

A small tabby kitten scampers down the rocks and disappears into the depths. The cave is active, the ground slopes down with lots of breakdown, boulders, sloping loose gravel, rubble and sand. My uninformed guess is gypsum and limestone composition.

 



We scramble through the rocks and big boulders and make it down to the bottom. Water lies around the edges of the sinkhole floor. On one side there is a small shallow pond of brackish water several meters wide, covered with a whitish crust of what looks like solidified dust. It cracks like thin ice when I touch it. On the opposite side of the sinkhole floor, water is dripping from the rocky limestone ceiling to form puddles of clear water. There doesn’t appear to be a current but the water is clear and perhaps there is a little stream flowing away under the rocks.

Some research tells me the sinkholes are a karstic feature of the Qatar environment. Karst geology is prolific on the peninsula with thousands of hollows and depressions across the country, and also a number of sinkholes and caves, several of which are known. Many caves and Dahls have collapsed, and with the huge construction and development now under way in the city, the building foundation investigations need to be exact and thorough! Bulldozers have been known to break through and fall into such previously unknown Dahls.

A sudden wing flutter distracts me as a small bird flies out from under the ceiling up and away through the cave entrance into the blue sky. Might be a sparrow but it was moving too fast to tell. We clamber around for about 20 minutes and take some pictures until the heat gets to us. So much for cooler weather; the perspiration soaks through my clothes as we climb back out of the cave.

 


Mohamed tells us that the sinkhole is now permanently closed to the public because of the risk of continuing collapse and movement of rocks and boulders inside. He clangs the heavy gate closed after us.
We walk back through the deserted park to the guardhouse, hugging every bit of shade along the way. It’s much, much too hot yet for any sane person to be outdoors for long. We exchange contacts, Shukrans and Ma’salamas with Mohamed and retreat to the air-conditioning in the 4WD.

 


 
 
Copyright 2010 - www.saudicaves.com - All Rights Reserved