It was two am in the small hours of this morning when we stepped into the heavy heat of the Middle East. We were sleepy, yet bright eyed with travel and fascination at the multitude of colors and sights that met us as we stumbled out to our waiting taxi. We walked carefully round groups of people from a myriad of different countries, fascinated by the turbans and veils that brushed against us. As we stepped out to our car, we glimpsed the strange and lovely lettering of this country, in calligraphic curls and and dashes. Our driver dashed us to our hotel, where we peered out over a sprawling cityscape of jeweled lights. And then fell senseless into bed. Exhaustion doesn’t quite describe the feeling.
Six hours of sleep, two hours of driving and one rescheduled camel ride later, we are here in the town where we will stay for the next few days. Our hosts met us with delightful welcomes and a traditional middle eastern dinner. We laughed as we sat around our table at an old restaurant lodged in the fort near the old oasis. We were feasted on hummus and pita bread, grilled lamb and chicken and delightful salads of fresh vegetables and spicy dressings. The favorite treat though was the fresh juices; pineapple and mango, guava and lemon, mixed fresh and served in chilled glasses. Our friends are so lovely and so generous and the next days promise much grace. I hope we can bring as much as they have given us already.
This is the farthest I have ever been from home both in miles and culture. And it is fascinating. As we were waiting for our food tonight, we heard a strange cry echoing through the darkling sky and several of us leapt up the old stairs to stand on the lookout and listen. It was the call to prayer. Haunting and eerie as an old tale, the strange voice echoed through the pink haze of the hot dusk sky in a tone almost otherwordly. It was compelling and present. We listened until the last horn died away and then turned wide eyed to eachother. It is not to be forgotten.
Tomorrow begins the bulk of our time here and we must be up at five thirty sharp to redeem our canceled camel ride before the sun comes out in full, so I will bid you goodnight from this hot and strange, yet fascinating place. More will come soon. And tomorrow, perhaps you will get a glimpse of an obliging camel with one of us perched precariously on its back…