Hi there!Mark Whitworth I am Mark Whitworth -
writer, educator, traveller
and all round good guy.
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February 2011

Desert debrisIt seems some time since I updated my blog and, checking back, some four weeks have sailed past. It’s been a busy period, both at school and personally, sometimes too busy; these fast weeks turn into faster years and we all get older quicker!

Talking about age...a belated happy birthday to my Kiwi cousin Kate, but I won’t embarrass her here by giving away her age. Apparently she had a good time even though most of her senses are now failing and still enjoys the status of being New Zealand’s youngest resident adult! Enjoy the year, Kate, and hope to see you soon!





ISLQ, year 7, Doha, Qatar, International School London Qatar, Zuberah FortWe had a “block week” last week at school; these things raise their heads in most educational establishments and consist of a week off timetable for everyone. It sounds like a blast but only rarely does it work out that way. The Humanities department took Year 7 for four days, the fifth being sports’ day, taking two trips out of school and working in the computer labs for the other two. I reckon I’d give it 6 out of 10. I organised the week and tried to gear the trips around information collection and presentation for a time capsule. Some parts worked well and others didn’t but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole week was the letter I had to send out, Doha, Qatar, desert, ruinsat the last minute, concerning going to the loo in the desert. Never before have I used the words defecation and urination in a letter to parents; I’m planning to frame it.

Apparently concern centred around the girls, it being thought that the boys would manage, and I had to deliver assurances that a suitable single sex location would be found, that toilet paper and wet wipes would be provided, and that there would be female staff supervision. In the event, all forty-three students of Year 7 went on the trip and not a single girl needed to use the facilities. Let’s hear it for desert dehydration!

Zuberah Fort, Qatar, Mark WhitworthBasically we visited three sites, one a patch of barren land close to the school, the second an abandoned fishing village  and the third an Arabic fort. It seems the students enjoyed themselves, which is gratifying, but as I was sinking deeper and deeper into a heavy cold it was less pleasant for me! The bug finally caught up with me on Saturday, when after three hours out of bed I almost collapsed and had to return to it. This evening the pressure on my sinuses seems to be easing slightly but that could be the effects of the Thai curry.

I met two interesting individuals at the fort. One was a Nigerian from Lagos who was labouring for the archaeologists there; it seemed he was a bit lonely. The other was the Qatari in charge of the fort and, more interestingly, the abandoned fishing village as well. He did confess to knowing little about the history of the two places but did confirm that the fort was built to repel Bahrainis, who for hundreds of years had used western Qatar is a hunting estate. Apparently the dispute was largely fought with muskets, which goes some way towards explaining why a small earth fort should have been constructed in the early twentieth century. This dispute was finally settled (perhaps) in The Hague in 2001, when Zuberah, the town below the fort, was affirmed as Qatari; today it lies empty. Bahrain continues to rule the island of Hawar, which to all intents and purposes is a natural part of Qatar.

pigeons, Zuberah Fort, Doha, QatarInterestingly, at the International Court of Justice, Qatar had to withdraw many of the documents it had presented as they were found to be forgeries. I will confess that this nugget of information was sourced from Wikipedia but I checked out the reference and it appears to hold water. You can find the links below.

Anyway, the Qatari guy wanted to tell me how he had this dream to make the site of the fort and the village a major tourist attraction, with coffee shops and a train ride and so on. It was an ambitious vision and personally I’d rather see the place allowed to decay, as has been Al Gamal, Al Jamail, El Jamail, abandoned, fishing, village, Qatar, Mark Whitworthdone in my favourite ghost town, Bodie.  Unfortunately, Bodie’s website has also been allowed to decay, but you’ll find some spectacular photos at the website listed in the references to this blog. There are also links below to the sites for Al Zuberah Fort and Al Jemail fishing village and its worth clicking the Google Earth links once you’re in these sites as it gives a very quick impression of where they are in the north-west of the country.

While Year 7 were playing in the desert Years 10 & 11 were taking Geography exams. As an MYP school, we’re not supposed to call them exams, maybe tests in sensible shoes would be more appropriate, but exams they are and the students really struggled to come to terms with them. I guess that less than half of them complied with basic examination rules, like writing in black or dark blue ink, putting your full name on the paper and so on; really basic stuff. I’m fully in favour of introducing exams in the later years of MYP; I’m convinced it’s essential preparation for when they undertake the IB Diploma in their final two years of school. Mine is not a view that is generally supported by MYP enthusiasts, although I classify myself as one of them!