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Sam-I-Am Violin on the streets, fundamentalist Judaism, planting organic vegetables, and the like.

Deserts of the World, Unite!

MOROCCO | Friday, 9 May 2008 | Views [1510] | Comments [2]

yeah, i took this one myself

yeah, i took this one myself

Harold exposed my lack of travel experience amongst the mountains of the world. True, but I can take solace in my coverage of some of the great deserts of the world. I can count experiences in 5 sprawling expanses of nothingness. The character of each desert is different; but each time I go, I remember how amazing and ridiculous it is that these places exist in the world.

What follows is a breakdown:

The Negev Desert. Pale, greyer than you'd like, and too much barbed wire and power lines because of the significant activity of the Israeli super-military down here in the South of Israel. I don't think the Negev is special because of its physical beauty. It's special because its holy holy holy. Now I know that you see what you want to see, and that I can be over-romantic about the places I visit. But sitting in this desert after night falls, I have no problem conceiving of prophets jaunting through it. Also, it snowed here, and I ate the snow as I hiked down into a gigantic geological anomaly of a crater, the Makhtesh Ramon.

Wadi Rum. Great big crags plopped themselves in the desert and loom above tourist-fed village of Rum. I filled my shoes laboring up sand dunes the epitome of orange, and ran out of control down the dunes, smiling uncontrollably like a little kid. From the remote and picturesque camp, I casually walked off into the distance a bit to scramble on jutting outcrops seemingly made for impulsive climbing. The freshly slaughetered goat was saved for the bedouin nobility in the next tent, but at least they cooked the chicken in a pit covered with sand. This place is other worldly.

The Sinai Desert. Like I said before; who knows what this place looks like beyond its ominous mountain ranges lining the shores. All I know is that sitting on a silent beach under an umbrella, or lifting your head above water to take a break from snorkeling, you get a seriously incredible backdrop of desert peaks. Voyaging through the hills and valleys of this place, to be finally rewarded with the pristine red sea coast here, that is special.

The Eastern Desert. Egypt is even more barren than anyone could possibly think. Its the Nile Valley, and then its the desert. Lots of them. Surely-beautiful oases dot the expanses, but in between, I can't think of anything that fits the word desolate more perfectly. Between the Suez Canal and Cairo, there lies a dusty train, and there lies a collonade of trash from careless Egyptians over the decades of bumpy travails across this waste. And let me say. It's really, unbelievably hot. There is no respite from it. The gust of wind coming in from the train is intoxicating.

The Sahara Desert. I don't even know if I actually went here. Is the whole gigantic swath across Northern Africa called the Sahara? All Harold and I did was go a kilometer or so in from southern Morocco. You could still see the lights of Zagora on the horizon. And still. You could kind of tell that this desert was the real desert. This desert had gentle dunes bobbing up and down as far as you could see into the heart of the sandscape. It had the wind-carved patterns on those dunes. It had the sand swirling incessantly across the dunes, so you couldn't look straight on in that direction. You had to keep your back turned back towards civilization. No, you are not welcome here, turn back and go to your cities. I slept outside, on a mattress I dragged out of the tent, with a blanket and a pillow and my hoodie for protection from the sand. That's like the Mamluks showing up to a battle against the Ottoman Army with swords. I didn't stand a chance. At some point the wind started. It never stopped once. Any chink in your blanket-armor meant sand in your eyes. I struggled to get up in the middle of the night to survey the scene and consider moving inside (I did not). I had to burst out of a sand tomb first. You could not see the mattress when you stood up - overcome by the sand. I think this was probably the weakest sandstorm one could possibly experience, and it was pushing the limits of human comfort for us city folk.

But in the dead of night. Near nothingness. Can you hear the sound of nothing?



You may have experienced the Khamsin (khamseen...)the Middle Eastern term for the dry, hot wind that blows in from the desert. It refers to the wind that blows from the Sahara across Egypt in the spring, typically from March through May. As you may have noticed, the sand is almost as fine as talcuum powder rather than the more granular stuff we're used to. That's why the Bedu keep their heads and mouths covered.

  Harriet May 9, 2008 7:36 AM


that was areally good journal that u rote about desert amd i got some information of it two so thank.

  patrick Jun 15, 2008 7:20 PM

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