Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh I've been to the desert in a bus with no windows ...

Know the song? (about 'the horse with no name')

Are you familiar with the (quite old-fashioned) saying:

"Children should be seen and not heard" ... Well, in this country women should never be seen.

The rain has gone away again, and it was finally the girls' turn to go to the desert. The female faculty members (us) and staff (office and administrators) were all invited.

I sat on a bus crowded with women in full cover-up mode (except for us foreign women who were wearing our black abayas but not head coverings). Women are not permitted to drive, and so in the presence of a male driver the women were all required to be covered. I found myself staring at the eyes peering through the slits in the headgear and listening to the excited voices chattering in Arabic, trying to recognise by their voices the women I work with day by day at the college. Of course, traveling by bus is in itself an unusual experience for the ladies. There are no public buses in this city.

And the windows of our bus (the 25-seater bus we travel to work in every day) are totally covered over. I glimpsed some spectacular scenery through the little square of windscreen that was visible from my seat, but couldn't take any photos.

The farm belongs to a relative of the (female) Deputy Rector of the University. In order for us to visit, all of the men associated with the farm had to leave.

Of course when we got there, and the bus and driver had left, all the women uncovered and relaxed, and it was well worth the trip.

The word "oasis" takes on new meaning when you see the stark reality here.

The ubiquitous palm trees are growing on the very edge of the desert,

bearing luscious dates.

And then, of course, there are the very valuable camels.
For what? Well they are not used for transport any more ... I think they race them. And I have seen camel milk, and camel meat products in the supermarkets.
(We keep telling them that we have a million and more wild camels in Oz that we'd all like to get rid of ...)

The farm house is a lovely relaxing place to be.

This outside room (patio?) was where we spent most of the day. More carpets were brought, and cushions and chairs and there was room for the whole group.

Inside - this would be such a nice,cool place to live!

This is one of several large sitting rooms.

Those cushion-sofas were easily moved into our outside area, along with the elbow-rest cushions - very comfy!

Flat roof - another place to relax, and with a view of the desert.

The buildings in the distance are where the camels are housed and fed ... and if this blog had smell-a-vision, you would know why they are so far from the homestead!

Despite the desert being so close, the garden is fresh and green and pleasant. (I don't know what it's like here in the summer with the 60 degree heat and dust storms!)

Another barbecue area with a rolled up carpet all ready to roll ...

Because, of course, early evening (and morning I would guess) is when the desert is at its best.

Absolutely the best time to walk in the desert.

And then back to the farm house.

Then it was time to abaya-up ... a quick smoke on the roof for Sally ...

And back in the bus to the big noisy city.

Now why didn't they build the college out there in the desert?

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