Strolling through an Oasis

I have joined Michael in Al Ain for the week, mainly because when he is away from home in RAK I miss him too much, but partly also to get a sense of what will become my new home soon. On Tuesday morning I decided to take a stroll through the heart of Al Ain: it’s oasis. Paved pathways snake through walled palm gardens and I allowed myself to get lost in this labyrinth for two delightful hours. Wandering through the coolness of the morning with the traffic a distant hum, I could hear myself sigh: “it’s an oasis not just for my body, but also my soul”. It is a space in which I immediately felt at home. The only sign of human activity this early was the occasional voices of workers floating towards me and the unexpected crowing of roosters. I followed the sound and was thoroughly entertained by the antics of the chickens that call one of the palm gardens home. The unexpected frenzy of early morning activity brought life to this otherwise motionless corner and laughter to my lips.

In the distance I could hear the sound of water and by following my ears I soon discovered the irrigation system (falaj) at work. The gentle flow of crystal clear water brings life to the desert and its people. Mountain springs are guided to the oasis where it quenches the thirst of the date palms and the occasional banana or mango tree. The energy of life and growth hangs heavily in the air, and is even more tangible so early in the relative quiet of the morning.

The oasis has a womb-like quality that embraced me with a soft energy of protection. That was until a stray security guard told me to turn around as I was soon to meet a dead-end where a frenzy of building activity is in progress. He hovered around and admonished me with “it will be big trouble if you go on private land”. There are no signs to tell you where you are not supposed to enter, but common sense clearly dictates that one will turn around when reaching a dead-end or construction area. I told him that and he trailed off to find another ‘lost’ tourist to enlighten in the pursuit of his duties. The encounter broke the magic and I left soon afterwards to find the National Museum and the promised treasures it holds.

To reach the museum I had to walk around the outside of the oasis where the shock of human activity and staring eyes sent shivers down my spine. To try and avoid this, I decided to take a short-cut just to find myself in an area with no other women in sight. The only thing I could do was to speed up my pace and make a dash away from men hissing words I care not to understand. Note to self: “avoid the long distance taxi and bus station!”

As I rounded the corner I was relieved to see the National Museum and to hear the voice of my husband who chose that exact moment to call. “I was worried about you. I called and sent and sms.” My brain was so focused on getting myself as far away as I could from the perceived unsavoury characters that crowded my way, that I didn’t even hear my phone. Not that I felt unsafe at any point in time. Just a tad out of place.

The museum houses many treasures and is definitely worth a visit, but when busloads of tourists engulfed it, I couldn’t wait to escape. I much prefer the parallel world of the oasis. Real life can be noisy and uncomfortable!

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