The 2015-2016 winter camping season in Qatar will now end on April 14, instead of March 31, officials have announced.
This week, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) said that it was extending the season, which began on Nov. 1, after issuing some 2,058 licenses.
That’s a 34 percent jump from the 1,533 permits granted during the previous season, according to MME figures.
This has been a particularly popular year for desert camping, which some attributing the increased interest in encampment permits to boredom with city life.
“Whenever men come into my office for permits, I always ask them why and all of them say they got bored (with) going to shopping malls and restaurants,” Maryam Al-Bader, an MME secretary said. “They want to do something different. I hear the same answers from women too.”
Officials have also been discussing housing thousands of football fans in desert camps during the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar will host in the winter time.
Currently, only Qataris ages 25 years and older can apply for permits to occupy a seasonal but annually renewable campsite in the desert. That acreage can used for things like informal gatherings, an escape from Doha life and special events.
For a deposit of QR10,000 Qatari riyals, citizens can secure up to 2,500 square meters’ space for their tents, roughly the size of six basketball courts.
Their deposit is returned if conditions set by the MME are not violated, such as leaving garbage at the site or otherwise harming the environment.
Change of scenery
Desert camping in Qatar may seem like an old way of life, but camping in Qatar in 2016 is not necessarily stripped of city comforts.
Some tents have electricity that allows them to run refrigerators and air conditioners.
“Camping changed from before, people now started adopting modern conveniences,” said Wedad Bilal, a 55-year-old mother of six. “Although the purpose of gathering (hasn’t) changed – we used to always gather in the desert.”
Still, there are limits to how much Qatar’s desert campsites can be modernized.
Some campers disregard the MME’s conditions for temporary camping, resulting in the loss of both one’s license and deposit.
One frequent camper recalled that a friend could no longer renew her camping permit because she placed cement on the ground.
However, such incidents are few and far between, according to the MME staffer Al-Bader. “We are glad because we make out application process easy for them,” she said.