I have been afforded adventures one dreams about but never experience. Good? Bad? Leaving on a jet plane to Saudi from DC, you get the sunset over Long Island and sunrise over Egypt. The hot desert is a jarring sight.
Almost immediately I can dive beneath the Red Sea and its wonderous color and fish. Indeed, that was spectacular and special.
And, there were plenty of stray cats, largely ignored and mostly starving. The desert is cruel and harsh. A sandstorm? Several happened. I rushed out to see it. Disappointment. It was not the sweeping storm of Laurence of Arabia. Nope, it was more like dusky fog. From my vantage and perspective, it was curiosity and not too intimidating. My bad.
Yes, in the middle of a sandstorm, I’m out feeding the cats. Bidi and Lily are outdoor cats. They hang around the compound but are not adopted. The guys at the gate feed them. And countless other tenants do the same too? Lily was showing up regularly. But on this day, Bidi is the one who appeared. Ok, you show up, you get fed. It would not be a notable event. But in the sandstorm and with a silly expression, well, that merits a pause. With point and shoot cameras, and with animal shots, like fish, you can be surprised by what shows up. Auto focus changed the game long ago. Now, just point and shoot. Yeah, I’m finally in the new century. Amazing, when you suddenly have insight into what everyone has known for years. But I grew up before cellphones. Imagine that! Beam me up Scottie!
Well, as I have commented before, it ain’t Lawrence of Arabia blinding. But at least it’s enough to comment upon. The light is funny. It’s decidedly yellow. The sun is up there. Wind is what blows the sand about. Duh! And it is like fog. The visibility is diminished. You don’t feel the sand upon you. It is too fine. It’s not like the grains of sand at the beach. That’s way to bulky for the wind to pick up. So, for the desert, this is the stuff of movies legend. I asked. It’s not the worst. It’s noticeable. It’s hard to photograph because it doesn’t look like anything too radical. There’s a layer of dust on everything. Tomorrow we’ll see cars completely covered. It will be like snow in winter covering all the exposed surfaces. Only then the cars that haven’t moved will still be covered a week from now. Its one way to collect abandoned cars.
Meanwhile, the best you can see is the visibility is diminished to the horizon. The problem is that not seeing a building is not a picture. So a single image hardly does justice to a sandstorm. Video might work. Palm leaves and trees don’t sway much in the wind. I’m still seeking a quintessential image. So far this is the worst I have seen. So there’s my image. Someday I might be able to top this.
We dive here. The resort across the way in the image is Dream. There’s blue sky over there. They used to be very crowded with divers. Now my place is where the crowds are. Maybe they became diver unfriendly? Who knows? Waves on the ocean are nothing without some comparison. So, look across and there are whitecaps. You can see some swells. I’m not a boater nor a sailor. I can tell you the wind was steady and hard from the left. The stairs are covered in waves. Hey! I just noticed the stairs! My! They weren’t there before. Someone put them in. Neat! You used to have to jump about three feet into the water. No big deal unless you are there and about to jump. We would fall backwards into the water, no jumping forward. I don’t know why. But falling backward is unnatural. And there is a moment of panic as you let yourself fall. Nope. Not my cup of tea. Ok, they took care of the jump. You can walk the stairs into the water. The trick is climbing back out. No easy feat. There is nothing under the stairs. Right, there is no floor! Go figure!
Anyway, we dove in the morning. We were down an hour. The water was smooth as glass still and calm. And when we emerged, it was as though the world had changed. I did not pay attention. These are not intimidating waves for an experienced diver like me. Smug, aren’t I? But within minutes we got word the resort was closed for diving. There was already a sandstorm in Jeddah. And the wind was picking up speed. Gee, it’s about thirty minutes south to Jeddah, no more than about 15 miles. Sunny, windy, a few waves, and we had to stop diving. Hey! I don’t make the rules. I just play safe. And besides, I was a bit chilled from the first dive. It’s still not full blown spring here. That damn water is colder than my dive computer says. There are times when 79 degrees feels a whole lot colder than it looks. Yes! Mixed metaphors and fractured sentences….
My clinic is in the middle of the hospital in a room with fluorescent lighting and no windows. I’d call it a prison cell; there is a locked door. But they tell me it’s not a prison as long as you can open the door yourself. One of our patients was late, he was caught in the ‘terrible’ sand storm. I was impressed. I immediately imagined ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ with blinding swirling wind and sand obscuring the landscape and making it possible for marauding bands of bandits to have their way. Too much…. Around here it doesn’t blot out the sun and the light of day remains. It’s just a bit cloudy, windy, and looks more like haze or fog to me. Ah yes the sand blows up to your doorstep. Therein lies the annoyance. They take a hose and wash the marble stoop. The water washes under the door and on into your villa and you have a sandy floor to wash and sweep. Why not just let the sand blow away again?