On Thursday our company put on a trip for us to some local tourist sites in Dawmat Al-Jandal, a small town about 30 minutes East of the compound by bus. A bunch of us went, including some of the bilingual Arabic-English teachers from Sudan – a jovial crowd – that made the bus ride over there a lot of fun! As usual I took the opportunity to practice some of my Arabic, which they got a kick out of. The mother of one of the Sudanese teachers also came on the trip and she insisted on calling me Prince William! I think it must be the thinning hair!
Our first stop was Dawmat Al-Jandal Lake. That’s right – a lake in the middle of the desert! It’s not much of an oasis though, as the lake is rather salty and apparently man-made. There were no boats, it was just a body of water surrounded by rocky dunes, and although there were no birds in sight, along the shore were hundreds of tiny bird footprints dotted on the sand. We went down to have a wade and, stepping into the cool water, I almost lost one of my sandals as my foot sank into the sand at the bottom of the lake.
It was a funny sight to see the female teachers, dressed in their black abayas flapping in the wind, giggling while struggling to climb down the hill to reach the lake. One of the male teachers, a fellow from South Africa, stretched out his arm to help one of them. She happened to be one of the more conservative Muslim teachers, however, and although she was dangerously close to slipping, refused his help, being unwilling to touch the hand of a man! Fortunately she managed to reach the shore without tumbling head first into the water!
After taking plenty of photos we got back on the bus and headed for our next stop; Marid Castle, an ancient sandstone structure preserved in the dry heat of the desert since the third century AD (long before the dawn of Islam in the seventh century). Rather primitive in form (I don’t claim to be an archeologist!), it basically looked like a huge sandcastle made from a giant bucket and spade!
It reminded me of a family holiday in Washington State a few summers back, when we went to the beach on the Pacific Ocean and made a huge sandcastle over a period of days!
After climbing up to the top of the castle, we admired the view all around. Next to the castle we could see the “Umar Ibn Kattab Mosque” amongst a complex of ancient walls and the remains of buildings.
Since most of the time we are either at the university or in the compound, it made a nice change to get out and about and see some of the local sites. I look forward to the next trip!
Be sure to check out my other pictures from the trip… just click here!