“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.” T.E. Lawrence.
Trapped on a rock, I looked down. Bad idea. Having raced across the Arabian desert with a jeep, exploring desert gorges and climbing breathtaking mountains, I now found myself unable to pass a smooth but dangerous rock face. The others had made it past this slippery slope easily, but I noticed that the shoes I was wearing were completely unsuitable for this surface of rock. The others were telling me to move quickly. I tried, but again felt myself slip. I tried to use my hands – OUCH – the rock was scorching hot. I was stuck, not daring to move for fear of slipping. If I slipped, there would be no protection from sliding over the rock and into the valley below. Suddenly, the Bedouin driver of my jeep approached, taking my hand and leading me through the smooth minefield. I’d made it.
To reach the top, I had to walk past a very narrow ledge; taking no risks, I moved very slowly, having to sidestep, my hands and back against the mountain, my gaze looking out onto the sheer drop below. It was a long way. Having negotiated that, there was a small ridge to climb, wedged between two large rocks. I climbed the ridge, sandwiching myself between the two rocks and pushing up, looking down below – the people below seemed like ants – and then I made it. I crossed the bridge and had another spectacular view of the desert. Surprisingly, the easiest bit of the climb proved for me to be the hardest. Note to self: be prepared for smooth rocks.
We raced through dunes and mountains and canyons until we stopped once more. A sand dune, larger and more impressive than anything I had ever seen, stood before me. An orange mountain of nature, overlooking the desert. Eager to explore, I started to climb, and then ran. Sand filled my shoes. The beauty of the desert revealed itself as I rose higher and higher. The exciting feeling of climbing was exceeded by the journey down. It was steep, and I started to walk slowly. And then walked quicker. And then my speed increased and increased until I found myself flying down this sandy mountain, unable to control my speed, coated in the orange sand which rose with each step I made. It was exhilarating, sprinting down a sandy dune, and my arms hurtled with me towards the bottom.
Finally, after four hours of riding through the Arabian desert, we reached our destination. A series of tents, a traditional Bedouin camp in the middle of the desert. No sooner had we arrived when Faisal took us on a mountain climb to see the sun set. We didn’t have long, so we had to be quick. This was probably the highest, most dangerous mountain that we climbed, but it was coarse, and therefore much more enjoyable to climb. I found myself running from point to point, climbing with my hands and feet across ridges and reaching onto handholds, sidestepping the narrow parts, jumping from one ridge to another, until I made it. I sat on the edge of the mountain, overlooking the entire Wadi Rum desert, as the sun began to set. I’m lucky enough to live by the sea, and until this day, nothing had ever matched looking out of my bedroom window and seeing the sun set across the sea. But this was magnificent. The sun slowly descended, piercing the peaks of the canyons and mountains, turning the glowing sky a bright orange, and then purple, and then finally…black. It was the most incredible sunset that I had ever seen, and I shall never forget the peaceful feeling of sitting on that mountain edge, gazing over the incredible beauty of the desert, as the sun slowly finished its shift for the day. The air turned slightly cooler as I made my way down the mountain.
But the desert adventure had not finished yet. We were led to a series of mats outside of the tents, and there we were to eat dinner. Lamps provided the sole respite from the darkness. We were led to see our dinner, and I was confused when Faisal pointed at the sand. Suddenly, our Bedouin hosts dug into the sand, revealing a pot. They lifted the pot from under it to reveal our dinner – chicken and potatoes, cooked under the heat of the sand. Incredible. And so we sat there, eating our feast under the stars in the Arabian desert. Speaking of the stars, when we had finished eating, the Bedouin hosts turned off the lamps, and I lay backwards.
I have never seen so many stars, and have certainly never seen them so close or so clear. The Arabian sky was filled with sparkling wonder. I lay there for at least four hours, transfixed by the starry sky. The feeling of sleeping under the stars, in the middle of the Arabian desert, is something I shall never forget. It felt peaceful, and wonderful, to stare at the beauty of the universe, planets and suns and moons laid out before me. I could almost touch them. The unexpected bonus was seeing several shooting stars. I had never seen one before, but managed to count twelve before finally going to sleep, the last of which was getting brighter and brighter as it raced across the sky, eventually burning and illuminating the night sky with its sharp glow. Lying here, I could fully understand what Lawrence referred to as the ‘Dreamers of the Day’; those who seize adventure and make the most of their lives, having unforgettable experiences. This was adventure, and in one day, I had raced across the desert, climbed mountains, experienced the Bedouin culture and had experiences which I shall never forget. This, I did.
Image Credits: Tom Dobin