Action? Most of us get no closer to the Arabian Peninsula than King Solomon’s medjool dates, and why not? If you had a choice between your home town and anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula, which would you choose?
In between my infrequent blog entries, which always focus on humans and landscape, I am writing adventure novels, not surprisingly on humans and landscape.
As you can see from the menu bar above, I have been working on four novels over the past six years.
In preparation for updating them on my blog this fall, I have had some fun doing themed graphic design, one composite image for each of the four novels.
Yes—unique to each novel—humans interacting with the exotic geography and inspirational landscape around them, with the lightest sprinkling of ethnobotany.
I have interpreted each of the four novels below and I hope you find them enjoyable.
If so, recommend them to your like-minded friends, please.
Lived lots of years in foreign countries–foreign cultures.
Cross-cultural are experiences in which I have been face-to-face with people and behaviours I did not understand and often did not agree.
…as opposed to multi-cultural which is theory only.
In my work as a landscape architect in those foreign countries and foreign cultures, I had to build major projects. Had to reach workable agreements in difficult cross-cultural conditions. Learned so very much from so many different people.
The links below track some of my cross-cultural journeys.
They are all HD, all less than one minute long, and they are all growing from the Empty Quarter, the Rub al Khali.
Rub al Khali Enigma: the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Peninsula, what it is.
Dreams: how to get from dreams to fiction to reality, Atlantis Dubai 2008.
Empty Quarter: transforming cross-cultural realties, harsh environments into restful shelter, Qasr al Sarab 2010.
A Golf Academy in the Empty Quarter?
Remember the landscape context–this is the Empty Quarter–coastal edge, coastal zone.
Blue or green is rare and highly sought after, difficult to access. The coast line of the Gulf. City parks. The above two images are what I think the planners call ‘pent up demand’. But you’ve got to drive to get to these nodes. Tell me these green and blue major recreation nodes should not be 10 minutes or less walking from every front door.
Dense apartment life everywhere–that is Dubai.
So I said what might that locally accessible (ten minute walk max) neighbourhood park look like?
I wanted to understand a little more about the larger landscape into which the Dubai Municipality sits. Dubai Municipality is just a narrow, but intensely built, strip along the edge of the Gulf. From the above satellite image–it is hardly visible.
The landscape transect distance from Dubai, at the Gulf coastal edge, above on the left, across to the right to the Gulf of Oman is 100km.
Many times, I drove that transect through the Dubai Emirate on a main road, identifying essentially three distinct landscape eco-zones:
- Mountain Zone, the 2000meter high Hajar mountains (humans quarry stone);
- Desert Zone, the Rub al Khali sand desert (no water, no humans); and,
- Coastal Zone, the Gulf coast Dubai urbanification (megalopolis hoards of humans hiding from the climate or mangroves).
A Dutch doctor, a General Practitioner, Marijcke Jongbloed, lived in the United Arab Emirates for twenty years. She surveyed, 1983-2003, the landscape of the UAE. She compiled her findings in a book entitled, The Comprehensive Guide to the Wild Flowers of the United Arab Emirates. She photographed each plant in its natural habitat, annotated a location map and commented on how the plant was used by humans (ethnobotany). Best reference I found for plants in the UAE.
Mirage…dream, dream, dream…when I want you in my arms, when I want you and all your charms…whenever I want you, all I have to do is dream…the Empty Quarter…dream.
(dream, courtesy of The Everly Brothers)
Born in Lausanne in 1784, and studied in Leipzig, Gottingen and Cambridge before heading to Arabia…he was a geographer and author, best known for having re-discovered in modern times the ruins of Petra, the Nabatean city in Jordan. Burckhardt was an explorer who spent three years in Syria learning the language and ways of Arabia before beginning his journey through the sands and on to Medina and Mecca.
Burckhardt was a modest and self-effacing man whose careful accounts of his travels in Syria and Arabia are classics, and whose conversion to Islam was apparently sincere.
Before leaving Damascus, Burckhardt had tried to anticipate trouble. ‘Knowing that my intended way led through a diversity of Bedouin tribes,’ he wrote in his journal, ‘I thought it advisable to equip myself in the simplest manner. I assumed the most common Bedouin dress, took no baggage with me and mounted a mare that was not likely to excite… cupidity …’
His writing covered not only the natural geography of Arabia but also deep insights into the cultural geography of the Bedouin and the Wahabis–peoples of the sands. He wrote of the Wahabis:
‘The founder of this sect is already known as a learned Arabian named Abd el Wahab who had visited various schools of the principal cities in the East, as is much the practice with his countrymen even now being convinced by what he had observed during his travels that the primitive faith of Islam or Mohammedism had become totally corrupted and obscured by abuses and that the far greater part of the people of the East and especially the Turks might be justly regarded as heretics. But new doctrines and opinions are as little acceptable in the East as they are in the West and no attention was paid to Abd el Wahab until after long wanderings in Arabia he retired with his family to Derayeh at the period when Mohammed Ibn Saoud was the principal person of the town.’
Travelling as a poor man, Burckhardt drew close to the Arab tribes, he was depending upon them. His books tell the strange stories…lessons?
‘Unfortunately in Kerak he learned that cupidity is a relative thing. For there, for the third time, he placed himself under the protection of a shaikh—the Shaikh of Kerak—and for the third time was betrayed. Although he swore on the head of his son to protect Burckhardt, the shaikh promptly robbed him of most of his funds and turned him over to a guide who made off with the rest and then abandoned him. Again he was stranded in the desert without either money or a guide.’
The difference between truth, prejudice and political correctness can only be learned by the individual. But Burckhardt’s writings from two centuries ago and the contributions from many contemporary authors frame a window of understanding for that landscape and the humans who have called that desert their home.
Is mystique the Empty Quarter landscape magnet for Western culture? If so, then how…why?
How could a place, a landscape where cultures of India and Africa have interlaced for millennia be…empty?
How can there be an Arabian Peninsula landscape virtually untouched by Islam these last 1400 Hegira years?
And before Islam, how in the Empty Quarter can there be long lost whisperings…mystical names…unwritten sagas…still emerging from those sands…
But is this Empty Quarter mystique nothing more than a moth to fire?
For me it is unimaginable how non-Muslim foreigners came in search of this landscape…a foreign land…a foreign culture…a foreign religion…a foreign language…what to speak of…NO GPS…NO TELECOM…NO WEATHER REPORTS…
Everytime I think about our ‘modern technological tethers’, the real time information resources to which we are all accustomed, I am amazed by the strength and will power of these earlier explorers…and that gives their writing all the more gravitas.