From 2003 to 2018, Dave lived and worked in GCC countries including UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. He had a great time!
The Bullnose Mercedes
It is generally accepted that there is not a lot to do in Qatar. True, there are shopping malls and luxury hotels, but if you are allergic to both, you have to find your enjoyment where you can. Today, I'm liking bullnose Mercedes trucks. Tomorrow, perhaps, crab sexing by the sea. It's all about short term enthusiasms. Besides which, these trucks are OK. Lumbering and growling their way through the narrow streets, churning out deep ruts and potholes wherever they go, they're as much part of the Doha scene as the fleet of clapped out American school buses that provide workers' transport. You've got to love them.
Booming Construction in Doha
Doha, Qatar, is currently 'enjoying' the biggest city reconstruction project since Napoleon's Paris. Huge areas of the city are being swept away. Every day, old (and some not-so-old) buildings are reduced to rubble. Conservation, refurbishment, renovation, these are foreign concepts here. If something is in the wrong place, it's history. The desert winds whip great clouds of concrete dust and debris across the clearances. National, Musheireb, Bin Mahmoud, going, going, gone. From dawn prayers till sundown, and in places all through the night, the city echoes to the din of pile drivers and bulldozers. Mountains of rubble are created and transported to landfill sites. And the workhorses entrusted with this heavy haulage are a fleet of battered old bullnose Mercedes Benz trucks.
Here's Where They Keep Them After Work
The Mercedes-Benz "Kurzhauber"
The truck's real name is the Mercedes-Benz "Kurzhauber" which means "short bonnet". Manufacture ceased in 1995, after 35 glorious years. In Qatar, we always call them by their English nickname, the Bullnose Mercedes. I think they like it better!
From what I gather, most of Qatar's truck fleet is twenty-five to thirty years old. I'd guess there must be a few hundred of them in Doha alone, with many more servicing the outlying sites and plants. What I like about the Mercedes Bullnose are its huge road wheels and the way the cab is set oddly high above them, giving it a rearing stallion look. You can always tell if the driver is from India or Pakistan because they like to personalise their cabs, with pieces of fabric, tassels, and chains.
A full load on one of these chaps must be about fifteen cubic metres. Crushed concrete has to weigh around two tons per cubic metre. So a fully (over)laden truck could exceed thirty tons. With only ten wheels to spread the load, it's no wonder our roads are suffering. But that's good too, if it slows down the boy racers in their Land Cruisers.
I'd hate to give the impression that Qatar haulage is stuck in the past. There are plenty of newer trucks too, such as the Mercedes Actros (Atrocity?). The Actros is more powerful and more comfortable for the driver of course, but there's nothing to like about it. A truck (as I've just convinced myself!) should look like a truck. It should look powerful. It should be noisy, smelly, rattly. It should shake the ground and carve up the roads. It should make pictures and mirrors fall off the walls in its wake. Most of all, it should be bull-nosed with a big ugly vertical exhaust*.
*Correction: it is actually a big ugly vertical air intake, not an exhaust. But hey, where's the romance in that?!
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More Bullnosed Mercedes
I wrote this article in 2011 and the photos all date between 2009 and 2013. I left Doha in 2018 and by that date nearly all of the Bullnose Mercs had been cleared from the city. A few were hanging on, mainly around the industrial area, but the Mercedes Actros and Nissan trucks had more or less taken over. Pity!
One of my photos, the one captioned "don't talk to me - I'm working", is featured on the cover of a novel, "An Afghan Affair", by Alexander Travell. It's a good read.
© 2011 Dave McClure