When we last left our hero he was mired deep in work at his desk. 114 days at work in a row and counting. Suddenly, on the horizon a glimmer of hope!

4 Day pass to Qatar for Rest & Relaxation (R&R). Hoo-aahh!

But this is the Army; nothing is going to be that easy.

First get permission to go. Figure out how to convince the boss that you are not irreplaceable and that for 4 or 5 days the Army will survive.

Next get from the International "Green" Zone to the Airport. Don't get shot at.

Finally the typical hurry up and wait, get to the "airport" at 0800, waiting in big pile of dust and dirt, have a formation, roll call, and wait for plane at 1100, which becomes 1200, which ends up being 1330. 5 1/2 hours waiting. But at least nobody shot at us.

McGurk On Board 

Fly from Baghdad to "al Udeid" air base, Qatar, which is about a 3 hour flight south of Baghdad, off the Arabian Sea (kind of a thumb sticking out from Saudi Arabia).

Next, once again, be processed like beef cattle at the slaughter house and move from one room to the next and one briefing to the next, do this, don't do that, watch out for this, look out for that. About 1900 or so finally get to our rooms.

The rooms are shipping containers that have been stacked up and converted to rooms inside a giant warehouse. Sort of like a two tier prison. Not exactly a quiet, private place, you should hear the folks climbing up and down the metal decks from 0500 to 0800 every morning (oh, and I had a roommate too) but at least nobody is shooting at us.

The base (Camp Al Sayliyah) is like most small military bases with a pool...

...and gym, Post Exchange, email café, pizza, subway and other things.

Normally we would have a few days to visit the town, tour the region and the area but...it is never that easy. We got "locked down" on the base due to a published threat to Americans in Qatar. First time that has happened and it would have to be when we were there. So, instead of visits to the beach, sand dunes, and a desert oasis, we got to watch TV and read books for two days. But, at least nobody was shooting at us.
Finally on the third day word comes down we can go off post after 1800 hours if we can find a local "sponsor" to take us. Luckily we know someone here and we head off. Takes 20 minutes to get off post and 40 minute drive to downtown. We drive to the "Gold Souks" and look at window after window of gold. Darn, I forgot my camera. Area kind of like this one...

Back to the base and another day at the pool and finally off post at 1800 for dinner and a trip to the mall. Had dinner at an Iranian restaurant. Great food and nice atmosphere. Non-alcohol drinks, humus, soup, and roast lamb kabobs for $20.

 Qatar food
More Qatar food
Only 2 hours before we had to be back on base so we went to see what a mall was like in Qatar. Wow! Big, huge, nice. 4 floors, sparkling clean, Starbucks, Victoria's Secrets, Harry Winston, Armani, Carrefour, and hundreds more stores. Even a store that sold handicrafts from all over the Middle East and best of all nobody shooting at us.

Of course there were dozens of women in full veil, but also many not in veils. You can get a "normal" dress, or an abaya, in any color you want (as long as it is black).


Back to the base, and up at 0300, to be at the airport at 0600 am for flight home that left at? ........ 1300. Got to love the planning here.

Home (?) to Baghdad and back to my little trailer. Nose back to the grindstone.

Overall a fun trip and ... Nobody shooting at us (for 4 days).

On the home front, unlike the Red Sox, not looking good for the home team.

I have received word they "can't find" a replacement and I may be extended here for 30-90 days past the agreed date.

This of course fills me with joy. So hope they "find" someone soon, otherwise expect Iraq Update #1001, Christmas in Baghdad.