Imagining a Visit to Wadi Rum
I am in a new, strange world. The land changes colour with the light. Great shadows are thrown over the red, white, and black mountains by voluptuous clouds. The red deepens, the white takes on a blue sheen. The show moves on and the colours change again.
The mountains soar and rise up from the sand like great waves. We pick out recognisable shapes in the strange formations…
“Look! There’s an elephant… No! There’s a man.”
Now I am here, completely submerged in this place, I feel this landscape must be infinite.
I can no longer visualize green, drizzling rain for days, or ocean. I can imagine that there was an ocean here once.
But if the ocean no longer exists here, then it surely does not exist anywhere.
The rock and sand grounds me, the sky pins me to the face of the earth with its massive weight.
My hand strays to touch the rough surface of the rock I am sitting on. I pick up five small marble-sized rounded balls of red sandstone. They are naturally formed. As I roll them in my palm, I notice they attract to each other, lightly magnetic. I look up. I can see the sun is slowly sinking lower in the sky. Already in the deepening blue of the sky I can see a single star. A light breeze ruffles my hair.
I look down from my rock seat to the black goat hair tents, and wonder about the lives of the people here. Of how it must have been before we came, before there were tourists.
Everything depended on water, food, and the daily tasks people needed to do to survive. The Bedouin I have met ooze practical know how.
Their strong faces are older than their years, but this is balanced and softened by a perpetual mischievous glint in the eye.
As I think about our driver today, our guide, I have an overwhelming feeling that his are still waters that run deep.
I can share in the landscape, the night in the camp, but I have this feeling of grasping, lightly brushing the surface of Bedouin life with my fingertips. There is much more. Hidden knowledge, unattainable to me.
My guide and the other Bedouin here are magicians weaving magic, creating illusions with deft hands.
After the sun sets, I can see some of the older Bedouin men have gone to pray on the sand dune. They kneel, touching their foreheads to the ground.
Behind them, the sky is red and the clouds have turned a vivid pink, while behind me, the sky has darkened to a deep indigo, the stars multiplying and twinkling.
The last fading light that reflects on the sand and the mountains has an eerie quality to it, a silvery sheen.
I climb down carefully choosing my footholds on the rough rock and make my way towards the tent and the warm fire. Dinner is waiting. I eat slowly and enjoy my food, my Bedouin dinner, which is simple but satisfying – rice, chicken, vegetables. Afterwards hot sweet tea washes my dinner down. I am completely content.
We sit around the fire watching the flickering flames; I look at the faces around me as people talk together and laugh. Finding things we share, even though we come from such different lives. Soon enough some people start singing.
Then, our tour guides get up to show us how the Bedouin sing. They are tall, slender, proud, and noble as they stand in a line swaying, singing.
Their eyes sparkle in the fire light and I am transported to another time, when there were no cars, no technology, life moved slowly.
We are free.