In Desert Sirens, Jean-Claude Thibaut, the Belgian Ethnobotanist, describes what many ‘feel’ in the presence of these odalisques–these seductive sand dunes…their beauty simply overwhelms.
Following is a short part from Chapter 6: Rub al Khali Inland to impart some of the landscape feeling of The 23 Club.
The 23 Club
Immersed in the contemporary culture of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, against the backdrop of the Empty Quarter, The 23 Club tells the inside story of how an iconic project gets built in the oil rich, Gulf Region of the Arabian Peninsula.
Table of Contents
- It’s 2AM
- Spike Lounge
- The Walk
- Rub Al Khali Coastal
- Rub Al Khali Inland
If there could be a ‘Twilight Zone’, an ‘X-files’ event on this trip, this next area would be the setting. Chalmers and Jean-Claude appeared to leave contact with civilization behind when, after enduring thirty more kilometers of increasing shamal, the wind and sand storm, they took the Hameem turnoff. There was no other traffic. The road was well asphalted, two lanes, one in each direction and two full asphalt shoulders. The verges on each side had the Sheikh Zayed shelter belt tree plantations, as always, laid out linearly in agricultural fashion. These trees were young, in their first two or three years. More noteworthy though, was the desert, it was stirred, riled, mad with wind. Reduced visibility now limited their maximum speed to less than 70kph.
Jean-Claude said, “Over nearly a year when I was regularly making this trip, I may have seen only two or three shamal storms like this. Most of the time, I could enjoy the alluring forms of these dunes…on each dune my eyes could discover feminine curves…the feminine curves that throughout time have melted man’s intelligence…where the turn of the waist sweeps into the hip…and the hip line so gracefully slides into the thigh…and on and on…from every angle to every eye…these timeless curves call out from each dune, like a siren to Odysseus–no, stronger still…from the dune landscape is a hareem of siren calls…each beautiful, sweet, alluring…all promising…exquisite satisfactions…fulfillments of secret…”
“Hold on Jean-Claude, I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that sexual proclivities are not subject for public discussions here in the UAE; and as far as I’m concerned your personal proclivities are your own…so kindly…”
“Have some patience, mon ami, it always takes a while for me to settle in, to absorb the aura of this strange sand desert.” Chalmers squirmed and looked across, querulously, at his friend.
Jean-Claude continued. “You really don’t understand…you’ve worked here before, you should have felt this landscape. It begins by seducing you through your eyes–then grasping your emotions–it manipulates your body…then bit by bit if you let your inner lust prevail…it will take your life–it isn’t mental–it isn’t your imagination run wild–it isn’t a mirage–it is truly visceral! This desert grasps…”
“Ok, ok, steady on!” Chalmers butted in. “Enough dreaming! Look at this weather! We’ve a real weather event today–you were the one who said this desert reminded you of the ocean! Well today, all around us the desert is threatening like the wildest ocean storm. This wind is whipping–scrambling the landscape, like a roaring hurricane–furious wind, furious sand!”
The sun–the sun was a dim disk–by the storm nearly blotted out of the sky. Their visibility was reduced to less than 200 meters and the sand was swirling, drifting, dancing, racing over the asphalt. As they drove on, the previous mini dunes of the sabka coast grew larger, and each dune, being forcefully reshaped by the relentless shamal wind, had a roaring top.
After driving with buffeting winds and poor visibility for an arduous eighty kilometers, they came to the first paved intersection. It had barely readable signs for oil and gas rigs–Asab to the west–Saafi Al Naar thirty four kilometers to the east, in the direction of the Saudi and Omani borders.
They could see just by the side of the road, a small one story white stucco building. Stopped in front of the building, on the road shoulder were seven or eight large, heavy duty construction hauling trucks–because of sandstorm poor visibility, their warning blinkers flashing.
Chalmers and Jean-Claude stopped, too.
- Liwa Qsar
- The Nursery
- Finding Majlis
- Library Majlis
- Villa Majlis
- Long and Short
- Appendix 1: Berner Oberland Back Story
- Author’s Notes
- Plant List
© 2015 Edward Flaherty
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