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Letters from the Oman Trail – Muhammad

Letters from the Oman Trail – Muhammad

His eyes, full of light, reminds me of those of a child who sees no harm in life. He is beautiful in his simplicity. No pretending here.

You’re never alone in a desert. Or maybe when you really are in trouble and could use the help of someone. Other than that, it’s surprising how “crowded” it can be. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been awaken in the middle of the night by strangers while camping in the most isolated spots. The first time it happened to me, I got so scared, I jumped out of my tent like a mad men, half naked, my knife in one hand, my shovel in the other. Not expecting anything like it, the two bedus standing in front of me turned around in a hurry, and ran away as fast as they could. “Sorry, Sorry!”. Turns out, people only come to see if you are ok. It’s the rule of the desert. An isolated car in the middle of nowhere could be someone stranded in need of assistance. You will go out of your way to help, no matter the consequences.

It’s exactly what I do when I first saw a silhouette in the distance. Not sure at first, seems so uncalled for in that summer heat. Walking in the sand, up and down sand dunes is a very physical activity, even under bearable temperatures. Beats any gym session some are ready to pay a fortune for. So under the bright summer sun in the middle of the day, it is not something anyone should take on lightly and hope to survive.

When He sees me coming towards him, he stops and waives. He’s all smile, happy to meet me. We greet one another. As often in this case, because I still can’t manage a word in arabic, conversation is minimal. In a sense, it’s better that way. I hate useless exchanges dictated by habits more than the true will to learn about one another. Who really cares “what’s up?” in my life, “what do I do for a living?” or “where I’m from?” Just breaking the ice some would say ? No ice in a desert, so let’s skip the useless.

He seems ok. I offer him water, try to find out where he is going, if he needs a ride. He takes the water, for the rest all is good. I imagine he is walking from one camel farm to another. Probably usual for him, not even breaking a sweat. His eyes, full of light, reminds me of those of a child who sees no harm in life. He is beautiful in his simplicity. No pretending here. I ask if I can take a picture of him. He nods and takes the pose. The joy is gone, he is all serious now, conscious of how will look the image I am taking of him. A different man, proud. Not the one I first saw, the real one. I don’t blame him, I hate posing too.

The men you meet in the desert are not arab bedus. Those are long gone, having found refuge in large air conditioned villas build without taste in the middle of big cities without soul. Left behind to keep an eye on the oasis and camel farms are for the most part Pakistanis.

They live here all year long, regardless of the weather conditions. No electricity, no internet, no women, no family life outside the company of fellow workers, it seems like a sorry life for an outsider. Yet every single one I have met is always smiling, happy and ready to share everything he owns with you. A true lesson of life each time.

I get back into my car, wave goodbye and roll down the dune. Muhammad waves back, he is smiling again, ready to go his own way. I wish one day we meet again, just to give him his image. The beauty of a man…

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