Following the Beduine’s Trail

Egyptian desertCan you go into the desert and come back unchanged? What will you find even if you’re not looking for anything? What kind of experience will it be?

The wind coming from the desert mountains and racing across the open fields is more a storm than anything else. It blows you sideways, carries so much sand that the air is a reddish fog, and where it hits your face it scratches.

As soon as you crossed the open sands and enter the desert mountains everything calms. The wind dies, all is as quiet like the air. The stillness is immense. The sun torches everything, and the heat is so heavy that a dull taste of cotton lines your mouth and tongue and you feel as if you dry out on the spot no matter how much water you drink.

Desert mountainsYou search for shaddow where there is none and start to see Fata Morganas: palm trees and moving cars, men on horses, maybe even walking dead because how can you be sure in this heat and sand about anything that appears and disappears in the still air that in the distance shimmers like water.

And then you start to realize that the desert doesn’t care. If you’re there or not, if you’ll live or die, if you drop to your knees right now or a snake poisons you with her bite… whatever happens to you, the desert is the desert and doesn’t give a damn.

Have I ever felt this small? This unimportant? Have I ever realized with such force that we are all nothing but guests on this earth that can very well exist without us? Have I, the one who always finds her way, ever been so disoriented before? Have I had even the glimpse of an idea how life threatening that stretch of earth can be?

What if I were not with a knowing guide? I’d never again find my way out of here and the heat would just kill me off with a lazy hand in no time at all. Some desert fox may find me and have a feast. My bones might rot unnoticed. And those musings somehow shift something inside of me.

I think of my great-grandmother and realize I am more like her than I knew. I understand that she, the proud independent woman she was, had to do what she did, and that I, were I in her place, would do just the same.

Desert sunsetThen after a long day I sit with the Beduines and watch the sun set. And as the temperature drops as fast as the sun goes down the sweetened tea and the freshly baked bread they hand me taste like the best 5 star gourmet meal I ever had in life.

I look them in the eye, and though we can’t talk I can see in their smiles that they know, they know about the ancient blood we share. And as if any of us needed confirmation the oldest Beduine comes over, takes off my scarf and then puts his on my head and binds it.

I’m humbled. And parts of me are rearranged.

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