In the desert…


There’s a crescent moon rising now halfway up the prayer tower. There’s a cooler quality to the dry desert air and all of the “sand” colors have been muted into invisibility by the dark velvet of night… the twinkling of lights here and there bringing the firmament up close and personal to the senses and everywhere, the din of Farsi mixed with Russian, French, Spanish and other versions of chattering, all blend into a white-noise language unique to the Middle-East.

Surrounded by every size and shape of slick European cars, the sight of a Volkswagen becomes an incomprehensible absurdity as seen through the exquisite dark eyes of imagined beautiful Arab women bent on impacting this world so different and juxtaposed to all else known.

Another long day comes to a close… and with it, the realization that I left shoes at a stall elsewhere in the city. The shoeshine man is from Cameron and over the course of these past few days we’ve disagreed on football superstars, agreed on the fine qualities of Portuguese creole cuisine and his shoeshine skills, solved a fair bit of a number of Middle-East crisis and have become friends.

No doubt my shoes are safe and having their own adventure with other Arab footwear on this magical night. Looking forward to learning all about such adventures in the morning when I’ll make may way back to retrieve them.

One of the doormen to this grand paradise hotel I’m in is named Birry… he is from Kenya. He opened the foreign car door and eased me into the fine scented leather interior for my ride to the office this morning and he opened the door and eased me out when I returned tonight; Birry ‘s pulling over a 12 hour shift so far, spanning temps from 30 to 45 degree C. whilst wearing a long formal coat over a crisp white shirt and black trousers. Birry is slowly cooking day after day with the most amazing bright smile that some of us would pay thousands to get our own choppers to resemble.

Over the past few days, we’ve discussed and came to an agreement on what the ideal uniform for his function ought to be… we’ve had a few laughs over this.

Bisel greets everyone by our correct last name at the Italian restaurant I seem to gravitate to now and then… she is from the Philippines and smiles a lot when she talks about “home” yet, she quickly reminds me about how fortunate she is to be able to stand and greet people 12+ hours day-in and day-out six days per week, in this very large and pleasantly cool marble carved lobby. She taught me a trick she does with her feet and legs to fool them into not cramping.

Her amazing mind shames me for not remembering to pick up my shoes, her smile and attitude teaches me to be thankful… She too is etched into this experience.

Then there is “L”, she is tall and slim, a uniquely pretty Eastern European woman who followed her Eastern European lover from London to here hoping to have a life with him… alas, it didn’t work out as he left and never came back on the second day of arriving; which she claims these things happen for the best; as she wraps the Juicy Couture hoodies I bought as a gift for the girls. She too touched me and, as we wished each other well before leaving the store, I think we both knew we would remember the connection.

Outside, tall and proud Arab men in their long white thobe’s are everywhere, walking in pairs whilst fingering prayer beads or the silk ropes draped over their chests, they generally keep to themselves… but invariably they look at me; dressed in my Ermenegildo Zegna dark suit, crisp white shirt and gold tie, often say; ” As-Salāmu `Alaykum “… this is a thrill and I dare not say anything choosing instead to smile and sometimes offer a polite semi-bow; for fear of shattering their illusion that I belong… my innocent play reinforcing how remarkably alike we all are in spite of our externally perceived differences.

Easy for me to imagine this place with no buildings; nothing but sand and sky void of all further choreography, to “see” those that walk erect on two legs within it take on a different scale; becoming giants – anomalies – the focal point for all action and life itself. Perceived in this manner, it is easier to grasp the natural Arab ethos that to the outside world may seem like pride and aloofness.

Therein lies the fundamental misunderstanding – the rat hole – most Westerners get lost in me thinks… because we simply have never been part of the great womblike void this mother-desert is, we’ve never been that prominent nor the focus of our own selves… we’ve always had background choreography to replace the need for that stark self-awareness.

It is so spirit expanding and good to be an accidental stand-in on such a complex play.

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About JP
"There is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. Yet we may explore a bee forever and still never find a hive..." Kevin Kelly's - Out of Control

3 Responses to In the desert…

  1. Deanne says:

    Joe,
    I can easily imagine you floating through this amazing space, blending in, and smoothly
    sliding out, back to your choreographed other world. Nice reflections.
    Deanne

    • JP says:

      My dear friend Deanne,
      So great to hear from you… as of all people, you would know first hand the experiential richness to be found throughout this little planet of ours.
      Our time in India is deeply etched in our spirit and I’m sure you know that; double digit years later, we are still known, cared and talked about by the people we truly connected with then.
      Not only does our work still stand as meaningful today as it was then – perhaps more so – but so does our spirit alive and well; enriched by the engagement.
      I miss you my friend. Hope you are well.
      JP

  2. Tom says:

    J.P.
    You paint a beautiful picture of a people, a culture and a place deep within the recesses of our “fogged” grey tinted minds, that we do not seem to understand or embrace . . .the world would be a better place if we could all look through your rose tinted glasses . . .you have brightened my day . . .and given new hope for the future . . .!

    Many Blessings to you and the “Girls” . . .! Travel safe!
    tpl

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