Our country is blessed with water and lush greenery. Nature has bestowed all its blessings on us. We can feel how lucky we are, with a visit to the desert outbacks in Saudi Arabia. Married to the sweetest man on the whole planet ( Yayy! I reserved a new ring, there, sweetheart!) i had envisaged Saudi Arabia where he worked- dull, gloomy, sandbox where miles and miles of sand lay till the yonder. Dammam was no better, which screamed of shopping malls and traffic bottlenecks. The adventurer in me always wanted to explore the Land behind the Iron Curtains- the men who toil on such desert soil and i died to see how the Sheiks survived sans the oil. As luck had it, husband dear finally budged to my hours of sobbing, nit- picking and ' i'll be back home' dramas. We finally embarked on a road safari of 2400 kilometers, crisscrossing the giant desert country, from its north east to the south west. Dunes of sand stretching forever made my eyes tired and i closed them with disdain.
|These are the only creatures that roam the deserts happily...|
As we traveled further south, the scene changed drastically. The Asir mountains welcomed us to its green shrubbery and pleasant climate. We rested our tired souls in Abha, a hill station in Asir. Yes, you read it right, a hill station in Saudi Arabia! Right from the hotel manager to the room boy, everyone was from India and we were pampered silly. After a short rest we planned to visit some nearby farms. Being an ardent lover of gardens and fields, i was thirsting to view anything green, be it shade cloth or plain grass on a meadow. As our vehicle drove by, we suddenly came across a dead end. My...a dead end with a small iron gate. The adventure lover in me wanted to open the gates and jump in to see what housed such an earnest gate in the land of castles and towers. Just then the door opened and he stepped out. Must be in his early forties, i thought. Inquiring what we were looking for in such remote place, he stood all six foot of terror. We managed to explain in our broken Arabic that we were looking for some farms and fields. Beyond him, i could look at the greenery! Bending and jumping, i almost tumbled inside the farm as he let us in with a wide grin.
|That is a HUGE cabbage!|
Cauliflowers! Cabbages! And what not? Roses too...The farm screamed of hard work and i couldn't look any farmhands. The Algerian had been living in this remote part of the desert for years. He took us to his humble house and offered tea which we promptly refused. The proud look and gleaming eyes that his beet red face radiated with, is something that i can never forget. Sweet are the labors of hard work. We chatted away, as he explained how he fetched pails of water from a nearby lake every morning. By the time we left, i was proudly sporting a fragrant damask rose in my loose hair. As we waved goodbye to the man, i knew i would never be meeting him again, but the checked shawl, calloused hands and pleasant smile have haunted me. He taught me a priceless lesson- hard work and perseverance. The land he tilled was not his, the water had to be carried uphill and the loneliness he endured living alone in an alien land for years...but the gentleman was not bogged down. He took enormous pride in his cauliflowers and cabbages and roses.
Remembering the Algerian, there is one more person who shattered the myth that Arabs never are designed for hard labor. We met him in yet another desert safari to Al Baha. As we circled the roads of Baljourashi, i started skimming the area for farms, my usual craze. Much to the chagrin of my annoyed better half, i jumped out of the car and fled to a rickety gate, sensing some greenery inside. As my kids followed Mommy dear in her mad, mad adventure, there surfaced an Arab with his farmhands. His Ray Ban aviator shades and 555 held fingers brought me back to my senses, as i screeched to an abrupt halt behind husband dear. The look he gave me was one that i would remember for years together. Such venom! The Arab resembled our own Amjad Khan. I was wondering if i would be doing a la Hema Malini in Sholay...Pleasant surprise, he spoke little broken English, as he queried- " Hindi?" That is how Arabs call us Indians. As we replied in the affirmative, he animatedly talked about- you know who- SALMAN KHAN and AMITABH BACHCHAN! He had been to Bombayyy and he loved Hindi films. He let us trample his tomato farm, taking pictures and chasing the goats in the farm. And then it was time to leave. He surprised us totally when he said- "One minute".
|Tomatoes in the desert, Baljourashi|
|Look, Mommy! We got a box full of tomatoes!|
Terrified and stupefied in shock, we waited as he asked his Indian farmhand to collect tomatoes in a carton. He explained how he took his produce for sale in the local market and how his tomatoes were famous in the area. We left the farm beaming, armed with a carton full of ripe and fresh tomatoes. The big friendly Arab aka Amjad Khan is an epitome of Arab hospitality and kindness, to me. They are usually closed and drawn to outsiders. When we asked him to pose for a photograph with us, he refused saying it is against The Belief. What a man! My desert safaris made me realize there do exist simple and plain men in the Sand Box, ( Saudi Arabia) who love their hard work and savor the fruits of labor. They are a paradox. All Sheikhs don't drive flashy cars and sport rados and rolex. There are such men who bring a welcome change of green amidst the never ending piles of sand...
Thanks to Expedia, i could relive those precious moments when life taught me not to generalize men and value hard work. So, keeping my fingers crossed and my bags packed...where is it indiblogger? USA or UK???
p.p.s: Dear Mr Amitabh Bachchan, even Arabs adore you! And Salman Mian, you can now bare that shirt more often:P