I might have been temporarily insane when I grabbed a fistful of sand and made a genuine attempt to count each grain. When I realised the insanity of the whole exercise, I let the sand filter through my fingers and land softly on the ground. My hand retained tiny pebbles and I decided to count them. There were fourteen of them but having finished counting, I wondered what the whole point was about.
I was in a lonely spot where perhaps no human has ever treaded for years. I looked behind me at a blinding flash of light that reflected my car. I also looked at the grey mountain that was hiding both my car and me from view of the main road.
Just metres away from me, I marvelled at the way the sand dunes were perfectly formed. One of them had meandering tracks of a snake and the one next to it had paws’ imprint of a brown fox. I almost treaded on the remains of a small animal. Perhaps it was a rat but whatever it was, it provided a fine meal to the fox.
I was surprised to find budding green leaves on the thorny plants. In a vast piece of land that appeared so uncharitable, there was enough water in it bowels to provide a spectacular sight to lighten up the heart of a lonely wanderer like me.
It reminded me of an old uncle who we thought was a modern-day Scrooge but when he died, three hundred people turned up at his funeral.
We thought they were there to say “good riddance to the old miser” but we were wrong. In his lifetime, he would grab the front part of one’s dishdasha and hiss, “You tell no one about this” each time he gave away his money.
He enjoyed the reputation of being seen as uncharitable while he was alive. Perhaps it was a protection mechanism from revealing himself. He was responsible, later we knew, for many “budding green leaves” that sprouted around him.
I was sitting on top of a dune while I was thinking of him. From that privileged position, I could see the desert to the point where it touched the sky. It was an endless view of brown sands adorned by the thorny plants.
It was then I saw a brown fox at a distant. I thought, like me, it had no one to share its idle time but the desert. But I was wrong. A minute later, another fox, slightly smaller, trotted gracefully and they stood very close to each other. It must have been a female in the way it rubbed its nose on him. Then they trotted away happily behind the dunes and out of my sight.
I felt it was time I wrenched myself from the great silence of the desert and go back to civilisation. It was getting unbearably hot, anyway. I was a good kilometre from the main road and the drive was bumpy but it suited me fine. I just enjoyed the surrounding, the tranquillity and the peace that enveloped me. The civilisation I was aiming for has many surprises but it was part of my life and the one I cannot do without.
Many things happen in our daily routine and sometimes we put off important elements not because we don’t realise how important they are but we are scared of the consequences.
The desert does not demand anything. It is like a poor relative of the city. It has very little but thorny plants, twisting snakes and trotting foxes. However, it can provide a peaceful interlude for those who take the time to be its guest.
Saleh Al Shaibany