Thursday, March 5, 2015

Desert Adventures in Qatar

Sarah jumping on top of a sand dune, with Saudia Arabia in the background.

There is a simple, yet distinct beauty, I have discovered, that belongs to a desert. The vast, open sky empties any signs of boundaries or hindrances because nothing obstructs one's vision. Anything seems possible because there is a limitless horizon surrounding you. At the top of a sand dune, one can feel a sudden clarity of perspective--with the wide expanse of sand that strips away extraneous, irrelevant concerns. If there is a sunset or ocean view in the scope, all the better. To merge the everlasting horizons of sand, water, and sky together, with no other obstructions, is a view that reveals we are indeed part of a shared cosmos. Wendall Berry, a favorite poet and essayist, describes one of those moments: "And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."

A Middle East desert can be liberating, even alluring, but it is also full of contradictory surprises that can be hilariously unpredictable and entertaining. One can even be unexpectedly invited to tea at a remote Arabic movie set in the middle of the desert. In typical Qatar fashion, we have stumbled upon some amusing, but beautiful discoveries in our explorations. Each time we drive home, we all marvel at the captivating beauty of the desert, laughing, but sometimes reflecting, at what we have chanced upon in our travels.

                              Lessons from the Desert:

1) Every bush or tree is a special revelation, a new grace all its own.

2) As long as one has a supply of replenishing water, the desert holds a stunning splendor. Unexpected beauty is on each crest or plateau of sand, if you watch for it.

3) You can be entertained by unforeseen friends in surprising places in a desert.  Travelers and sojourners who were strangers minutes before can quickly be friends. Desert nomads know the desert can bring harsh conditions so provisions are freely shared and given--even to strangers.

4) There is a simplicity found in desert living, a deliberate choice to live in a more uncluttered, uncomplicated way. The desert sheds pretension.  One realizes there are so many things that are unneeded and unnecessary; a traveler cannot carry everything on one's back.                           

No snow in Qatar this year so we have sufficed to make sand a winter sport.