Once upon a time there was a young woman standing in the desert. On December 25th. And showered. Over her the stars clicked on in the last corner. The body covered with fine goose bumps. In the back a Bedouin fabric tent. She took in the cool desert air and ... Krrrrrrrrrk.
"Do not be late for dinner," the Egyptian guide Muhammad warned me. "Then there's nothing more." He has as little idea of desert food as of Oman, I soon realize. I enter the largest tent in the desert camp. Be pushed into battle at the buffet à la cruise ship. Wonder if the granny next to me, who piled the food so high on her plate, that half slipped back behind, not missing a few cups in the closet. Just like the 1000 Nights Camp I'm in, one night missing. And I am angry for the umpteenth time that I booked a group trip to Oman. The first of my life. And the last.
The drive into the desert was like driving on a German highway. On a track without speed limit. We were too late. Because 'the boss', as all in the group call the self-proclaimed spokesman of the group, had to go back to the extra piss. Extra Pipi was not scheduled in the scheduled minute-by-minute schedule. And then a Jeep taxi was missing in the small town of Mintrib, from where it was to go into the desert. I did not care. I could have watched the jeep drivers in their angel-white dishdashas and turbans for hours. One better underwear model candidate than the next. How they spoke excitedly in Arabic, running back and forth between cars, hissing in cell phones. Until the missing car heranbrauste.
Sunset in the Ramlat al-Wahiba desert was on the program. And if that's on the program, that's damn good. The first tourists next to me in the jeep mumbled something about "money back", a woman was bad. My eyes glued alternately to the driver's doe eyes in the rearview mirror and the desert landscape sweeping past the window. Like waves, sand dunes reared up in front of us. Rehauge kicked the accelerator and we shot up, then down again. Were thrown from right to left and back. I felt like I was surfing. By car. In the desert. It was my first desert painting. Once I saw a few camels passing by, led by a turban man, and then a herd of goats appeared. We were too fast to be able to focus on them with my eyes.
We shot up a sand peak. Rehauge slammed on the brakes that we all flew forward. Someone definitely wanted his money back. Rehauge gesticulated. We should get out. On the program was that here now the sun had to go down. But she was gone. Just disappeared behind a pile of sand on the horizon. Oh, shit. Mohammed stared at his feet, mumbling an apology. It was gone, the only chance to see a sunset in the desert. Because we should stay here only one night. At 1000 Nights Camp. The next day, the next list had to be processed. And there was only time out of the desert on the program.
Had I not already realized on the days before that group travel is not for me, the flash of inspiration would hit no later than this evening. The feeding in the tent is accompanied by howling songs, countless offers to paint my hands with henna and the grunts of my fellow travelers. I would like to have a genie that can quickly clear away all the people around me. I was looking forward to nothing as much as to the desert. And now that.
I ask Muhammad if you can climb the dunes, which, like the Alps, rise darkly to the right and left of the camp in front of the enlightened sky. He looks at me as if suddenly speaking the same >
Fences are made to over-climb or break through. And a desert for enjoying silence and space. Somewhere far away from tour groups. Somewhere where I can be closer to heaven. The sun. That would have to rise at six o'clock. I set my alarm clock to one-quarter past five.
Beyond the summit
At a quarter past five it is still pitch dark in my tent and in the entire camp. The camp is so quiet and deserted, as if the sand had buried the tourists and the buffet and song over night. The electric light is not working anymore, and the sky has even swallowed all the stars. That too! How should I see the sunrise when heavy clouds hang over me? My hope is down. And now? I am tired, my stomach growls and in the morning I never really get in the rut. Behind me is the warm tent with the cozy bed.
I keep going, passing between tents to the right, using only my weak mobile phone light. It does not take long before I stand before him: the fence. At least that was how Mohammed was right. Barbed Wire. Why does a desert camp need barbed wire fence? I'm going down a bit, and this time I'm not disappointed. At one point the fence is pushed down, as if he had lost the fight with a rabid camel. Even my limp legs fit over it.
And then I'm standing in front of a dark monster of sand and finally understand why I'm all alone here. Beyond all conceivable programs for travel groups. And it is exactly this thought that drives me the first two steps forward. Only that I slide back immediately. I'll do two more steps. And one back. Alpine hiking is for babies. I look up, but there is only a wall and darkness. Luckily, I've always been awful in the sense of accurately estimating distances. And then there's the fog that's hanging over me somewhere. Why am I doing this here if I do not see a sunrise? Two more steps. One and a half back. Slowly the venture reminds me of the damned life. I curse and puff and sweat and do not have enough water and no food. The wet morning air covers my face like a mask.
I'm just looking at my feet. Do not look up or back. I'm probably still five meters from the starting point. There is only one direction, and that means Next. Two steps ahead, one back. How many calories do you burn in this morning exercise? The next evening, I should also slam properly at a buffet.
Slowly light comes from above. And I do it. Look up. There! The summit. Actually, very close. Not only if you walk on sand. My adrenaline pumps, the determination clasps me like a drowning man. And at some point he is at my feet. The summit. I scream with happiness and fall belly first on the tip of sand. It crunches between my teeth, I have an endless thirst. Seconds pass, maybe minutes. I'm just lying there, on the cold sand. And then I turn very slowly on the side. The sand falls from my lips while I open my mouth until it stops.
The sound of silence
Above me the sky is getting clearer and clearer. Did I swallow the clouds during my ascent? I look back. On the batting layer below me. Above the valley, where Muhammad, the boss, the, I-want-my-money-back-wife 'and all the others snore still snugly. I am infinitely far away. Beyond the clouds. Alone with a sea of sand, where the wind in the form of slight notches has left its fingerprint. I stare at the reddish-brown dunes that roll against the horizon. The feeling grabs me to want to run to this horizon, just drauflos, the sun opposite. She is not to be seen yet. I am too early.
In a world and a life that constantly gives you the feeling that you are too late for everything, I have forgotten what it is like to be too early. To allow me the luxury of waiting without becoming impatient. I feel so easy, as if all this is not true, but my lonely footprints reveal that I really exist up here. Over the dunes, I run towards the wide, bluish pink horizon until I can no longer see the valley. How about getting lost in a desert? Alone without provisions. Probably not great. At some point I give up the delusion of being able to welcome the sun on the horizon. Return to my dune peak over the foggy valley. Sit down. Feel the sweat drying under my jacket. How a breeze sweeps through my hair. How my leg muscles tremble more slowly from the effort. I breathe in and out and listen. Must think of Simon Garfunkel. To the sound of silence. And finally, this sound can be assigned an experience.
Somewhere in the sky someone gently pulls the curtain open. Just for me. I turn my eyes from the valley, turn around. The sky assumes pink-orange pastel tones. I stare at the horizon. Wait for the show. Every second has to be ready. The first red curve peeks over the rolling dunes. I hold my breath. A ball as fiery as I've ever seen it creeps out of its climes back there. I do not keep my eyes off him, feel my heart fill with light. Aspirate each stream with each inhalation and watch the sun dip the sand hills with my footprints in warm red. Behind and far below me, the fog still has the valley firmly under control. I shoot a thousand mental photos, bag the desert breeze and the sound of silence deep inside me. For all the moments when the alarm light again points to a bad empty luck tank.
And if she did not die ... Uh ... If breakfast had not lured in the feeding center and the next checklist, then I'd probably still be there today.