19 March, 2006

Of Deserts

Of nature, I love: rain, mountains and hot deserts most; in which order, I do not know. I do not know too, why I love these three most. Of the three, deserts - hard and desolate as they seem - give me the most peace. My mind too is sharpest, when I am in deserts.

I have been in deserts where on all sides when I look around, I could see nothing - except sand and dunes - for as far as the eyes could see. Since coming to Yemen, I have worked on and off in deserts. In 1998, while working with an oil seismic company, I spent about seven months in one of the most barren and desolate deserts in the world: the Rub El Khali, or the Empty Quarters. The Rub El Khali is vast, mostly flat and utterly barren; it extends all the way from Hadhramaut to Saudi Arabia.

One time, we pitched camp, right at the center of it, between some low lying golden colored mountains; the sand too, all around, was golden. I can not forget the experience. In the evenings, I would walk alone and go as far away as I could from camp. Alone in the desert, I would sit on sand and contemplate life; and ponder. I realized then, why some of the greatest thinkers and Prophets of pass, spent long times in deserts to search for meanings and answers to life and being. The solitude, calmness and quietness of the desert, is best for such contemplations.

Whenever I can, I still spend long moments in the valleys and mountains around. All desert.