Bismillah Rahman Ar-Raheem
When I first came to this area with no idea I would end up married and living here, I initially spent most of my days and nights in the desert.
The open desert, its harsh beauty, echoing silence and the myriad of colours is what captivated me.
Over time, I began to spend more time in the village. Since I married my husband, I now spend all my time in the village, and we go to the desert for outings.
It is somewhat of a dream of both of us to be able to spend more time and live again in the desert. However, you can’t these days just live in the desert without “something”. That “something” being in the form or animals or an alternative income which can be made whilst in the desert. So it is easier said than done.
From the start I didn’t like the village. I resented its small town mentality, and the loss of wide open views that the open desert offers (there is a large mountain to the East and West of our village). However, over time I have grown to love the sounds of it, and its ways:
My favorite time of year here is the month of Ramadan. There is a special moment each day just before sunset and the athan (call to prayer). Everyone has gathered together at home, or at a family member or friends house. All the people have set up a nice place to sit outside, with juice, water, and dates to break their fasts. The women of the family have been busy cooking since shortly after Asr, and before that the men have been woken up and sent off to the shop. Children have noisily been enjoying being able to play outside as it is finally cooling down. Then the special moment happens before sunset. Everyone has been watching the mountain on the East for the last light to leave its tip, the light softens a bit more, the athan goes, and people are able to break their fast. For those 10 or so minutes the whole village is quiet in anticipation. It is the quietest the village is at any time. Just a still, happy, quiet. I like to imagine all the people I can’t see as we all sit together performing the same ritual, of togetherness, and breaking our fasts.
The athan is another sound close to my heart. There is the old man with his gravelly, strong Bedouin voice. I like his athan because it is authentic in his sincerity, while it is not the most beautiful, it is experience, solid, unwavering, and echoes the very nature of the environment and people here.
His athan is the past.
Then there is the beautiful sophisticated athan of a adult man, not young, not old. His athan softens the heart, you stop what you are doing to listen, and to act on its call, it reminds me of a wheeling eagle in the sky above.
His athan is the present.
Lastly there is the athan of a young adolescent boy. Not yet at its most beautiful, nor its beauty faded, but eager, promising, hopeful.
His athan is the future.
The athans are ever present, marking the days like clockwork ticking, providing a collective routine. Only ever falling inaudible when we have long power cuts (usually in winter or high summer).
Then there is the sound of a wedding. Usually we have one each week after Ramadan, and in Spring if it is before Ramadan there are weddings too. Once it gets to cold (maybe from November) people wait until Spring). The first clue you get that a wedding is going on is that you hear cars driving around the village tooting their horns joyfully. The bride has arrived to the grooms wedding party. Then comes the trilling sound of women udulating. Sometimes we can hear singing and drumming at this point intensifying but it depends how close the wedding is to my house. Then when the young brides husband arrives to take her, there is the inevitable burst of gunfire.
A young woman is joyfully sent to her new life by her family, friends, and welcomed into the bosom of her new family. Sometimes she will start her life close to home, perhaps marrying and staying in her home village, but often the young women will move to a whole new area and village.
Most married women I have asked about it say the early days of marriage are difficult, there are so many new adjustments to make, and they are away from their parents for the first time. Over time they settle into their new role and life away from their parents.
There is always the sound of goats somewhere, on their way past my house, or bleating in their home pens. Roosters calling. Especially at Fajr.
There is a tall eucalyptus tree in my neighbours garden and from there lots of sparrows twitter and cheep their early morning calls, and again at sunset before they go to sleep.
The minor birds make their particular kind of chatty tweets and chirps. Sometimes they come in large flocks and sometimes there are just a few around. Their presence follows its own natural rhythm.
The dogs bark, mostly in the evenings and mornings. The dogs always seem to have big and noisy turf wars when the moon is big and full.
In winter the Camels call, especially when they are rutting you will hear the strange gurgled call of the males. Often I will hear the sounds of an escaped naughty Camel charging past my house with a group of shouting men and boys hot on its tail.
Closer to home, in the evenings when my husband has guests, I will hear men’s voices talking while they drink tea, and sit around the fire inside our tent (bait shahar), or in summer outside. Often breaking into loud and involved arguments/ debates in which it seems the one who shouts loudest and longest wins.
Children pass by along our road playing, crying, squealing, laughing, fighting. When the school is open I hear the eager chatter from groups of girls on their way to school.
When rain or wind comes, it comes with a roar. The zinc roof part of my house rattles “rat-a-tat-tar” like gunfire. My children rush outside in excitement. I get out the mop, and rush around with buckets to put under the many holes where the rain comes in. At that time more than any other I can hear children and or men near and in the distance loudly singing phrases of Bedouin songs. Sometimes you can hear boulders tumbling down, a rockfall in the mountain brought on by the rush of rain.
We rarely hear the sounds of airplanes, although that sound has increased with a flight path passing over us now.
We hear cars but just a few in passing, never a steady drone of traffic.
We rarely hear sirens.
I sometimes think about all the destruction in Syria, Iraq, Yeman, and all the other places in the world currently seeing conflict and as I look across our village with a heavy heart I see how easily it could be destroyed.
I think about all the other small mundane little villages out there not blessed with peace, obliterated, violated and pillaged.
Al-hamdulilah our little village is trivial but our home, may Allah keep us and all of us safe.