Sunday, June 06, 2010


The air is hot and dry and hurts the skin with each step. I’m covered in a long black robe, my head covered from the sun by a white scarf that billows behind me in the breeze. Bursts of hot wind blow dust into the air, creating dirt devils that swirl and twist violently until they run their course, dying without a trace.

The sky above is clear blue, not a single cloud lingers. The landscape is totally flat, no mountains, no trees, just pale sand that has turned hard enough to walk on without strain.

I walk between rows of tents, on a surface of bleached sand only few degrees shy of white. The road is well traveled, covered in sand ground to fine dust and millions of footprints from those who’ve walked before.

On either side of the four foot wide street are tents made of burlap and dark canvas. The fabric is sun bleached and worn, covered in dust and pale dirt. The structures are square and feel permanent, though they lack formal foundation and could be taken apart in minutes. The roof of each tent is flat and sinks inward, creating an inverted dome in the space within. Canvas walls are tied to metal poles creating the 3 dimensional square. The doors are long rectangular pieces of fabric that can be pulled to one side, creating a triangular entranceway.

On the long street of tents, nearly a third of the tents have their soft doorways pulled to the side. Within those open doorways, close to the street, I see tables of fruit and metal wares. There are woolen carpets and tea in jars and baskets full of buttons and cloth. I can see just the things closest to the door, beyond that are just shadows, darkness that begs the eyes to look. Most of the canvas doors are down and tied, leaving their treasures and secrets hidden from the bright sun. The street of merchants is long, stretching into the horizon and then out of sight. One after the other, they stand without a gap between their walls.

The street is deserted, and I can hear the soft padded sound of my footsteps and those of my companion, also covered in flowing dark fabric.

The smell of thick, pungent coffee and burnt sugar wafts on the breeze every now and then, sometimes mingling with the smell of cigarette smoke. Every so often I hear the thick rumbling laughter of an old man.

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