I am in the Middle East during the height of the summer, at the end of Ramadan.
Easy to say Insane, but I choose to be here. I like the softness of the place, love listening to the language and endlessly watch my desire to be able to speak in such expressive ways, but like a lizard in the sun, I do nothing to further my ambition.
The people are kind, from a distance. I only get to relate, from a distance, in the main, and meet endless assumptions about how one should be, who one is, what one wants and my use of the impersonal is just: they know nothing about me, my life, my longings or my desires so none of it is personal. And it can be mirrored neatly back: I know nothing of theirs, either, apart from all that I see around me and can so swiftly judge but choose not to.
I love the dry heat. It is like a wall of blazing, unflinching fire so intense that at times it makes me gasp. I have the utmost respect for it, I see evidence of the power all around me in the destroyed paintwork, artwork, nature and faces. The dust, the sun, the dryness, the heat…. All is merciless and at the same time everything is still. Effort is futile, all is desultory and measured against the heat. God is Great.
Adding to the sense of powerlessness is the dryness of Ramadan. No one can eat or drink, smoke or chew gum, no sex and lots of prayer during the day. The shop keepers are tired and grumpy, everyone is longing for Iftar, the evening meal, the moment when the fast can be broken, which is at 6.31 precisely, changing each evening.
In the build up to Iftar the roads are insane, with everyone madly heading home to break the fast with family. The darkness, the lights of cars and the sodium lights in the streets all add to the drama with black shadows and a curious denseness to the atmosphere.
I choose to walk each day in the midday sun. It is so extreme, so mind-blowingly hot, too bright to see without sunglasses, and not a drop of perspiration can survive on the skin. The shadows are hard and surprisingly cold to look at, but sitting under a tree to settle to banging of the blood in the head is not cold, nor cool. There is just the sense that one can take a deep breath without scalding the lungs. Trust me, it is an illusion.
I ran 2km yesterday evening. I was surprised that I could, but the sun was on it’s way down, there was a slight breeze and I was determined. Not a trace of sweat anywhere on my skin until I lay down inside to re-balance my blood pressure and I was awash. The air had been absorbing all moisture from me.
I like to take photographs in the high, bright light of the day. The sense of extreme is magnified, intensified, heightened.
As usual, I used a Sony Cybershot….