Saturday, 28 June 2008

Day 1 (Cont'd): 6 hour Drive

Well, that was definitely an experience. Today may well have been one of the longest days of my life.

We woke up at 6am, as our host told us, and were at the airport at 7am, only to be told that we were too late, and that the flight had been overbooked so they had given away our tickets. Ouch.

Luckily (or so it seemed at the time), we ran into a group of foreigners who definitely looked Dowra-like. We told the organizer we were also headed to Dar-Al Mustafa so he took our tickets and told us he would try and book us on a flight to Al-Rayaan (aka Makalla). From there we could take a car to Tarim, as we would have done once we landed in Seyiuum. Both flights were an hour long and so we (wrongly) assumed that the car ride would be the same, approximately 30 minutes.

Wrong. The car trip from the Al-Rayaan airport to Tarim took us over SIX hours. By the time we got to Tarim it had been almost 24 hours since we'd left our house at Cairo.

So the six hours in the hot car were not exactly fun. But looking on the bright side,

  • Al Rayyan is on the coast, so we got to see the beautiful sea as we landed.
  • I got to see camels grazing in the midst of greenery, and not to the backdrop of a desert.
  • We stopped at a shady looking reststop, and sat in a family room—a small window-less room with a carpet--where we ate a chicken with rice Yemeni style, with our hands.
  • We drove up a huge mountain. An incredible, incredible, scary experience. The road was literally built into the mountain, and we were so high up my ears were popping. And then when we reached the top, we drove all the way to the end of the mountaintop.
  • When we finally drove back down the mountain we came across a valley called Al-'Ain, which is filled with literally thousands of palm trees. A sight I will never forget.
  • I got to see Qat. I wrote a research paper about it in university and couldn't believe that it really was as widespread as I'd read. Our driver stopped on the way to pick up a bag of Qat, and chewed it all the way as leisurely as if he was chewing a stick of gum, and not a drug. You see, according to him, it's a monabeh (makes you alert), not a drug.

And now we are in Tarim, in the valley of Hadramot. The name literally translates into "death has arrived." Someone once told me, hadramot is where people come to die—not physically die but as in erasing everything about them that is tied to this world.

My heart seems lighter as I take in the view and breathe in the air. I can't help feeling that today has made me appreciate being in Tarim even more, and that the hardship endured makes the upcoming experience all the more precious in my eyes.

I've been wanting to come to Tarim since 2006, and even though I was accepted in the '06 Dowra, and the '07 one, circumstances arose and I couldn't attend either one. Subhan Allah I wasn't accepted this year, and only got in when a sister backed out at the last minute.

So all these events combined make me all the more determined to make use of every single minute I have here. Bism Allah.

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