Farming the Desert

New ways to get water. Greenhouses that stretch for miles. Qatar's audacious plan to grow its own food defies the limits of an arid land

Carolyn Drake for TIME

Workers gather melons in Qatar, where today only a tiny fraction of the land is suitable for farming.

Every couple of years, some enterprising engineer resuscitates the idea of towing an iceberg to the Arabian Peninsula to slake the thirst of the water-poor, energy-rich countries of the Persian Gulf. A Saudi princeling first floated the notion in 1977 at a conference in Ames, Iowa, on iceberg utilization. He arranged the delivery, via truck and helicopter, of an Alaskan mini-berg to the gathering, where it was hacked into chunks to cool attendees' drinks.

That may have been the closest Gulf Arabs have come to sipping from a glacier, but it was hardly the last outlandish scheme to green the desert....

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