Nature Calling
Cosmos Falling ... in?

desert fox
From the Western Desert in Egypt

The humming of a strong motor was again singing its reassuring song in the desert night. Front and roof searchlights unveiled continually new tiny parts of the sandy landscape. I turned to Mustafa who was driving and said, "Can you stop - nature is calling".

Well, I did not say precisely that, as I believe I used one of the slang expressions here in Egypt which is to "make a telephone". Guess I said, "can you stop - gotta to make a phone". Mustafa stopped the car and the humming engine in the big four-wheel jeep. Then turned off the strong searchlights. We went out in an endless and silent desert to make our phone calls...

It was there and then...
- and here comes the real difficult part.

How am I going to explain to you who now sit in front of your computer reading these Latin letters put together to an English language pattern - what exactly happened?

It was not a desert fox coming bye - that would have been "real". Neither was it Hollywood's Valentino on a white horse breaking the barrier of the silver screen and time - it was something more. In short - the most magnificent monument I had seen during more than ten years in Egypt.

Let me try an experiment?

Imagine the Grand Pyramids of Giza, the gold mask of TutAnchAmon, the Osiris Temple of Abydos - then you close your eyes and think very strongly "MORE"!

Do you see anything?

If not, let me start all over again?

I wrote: "We went out in an endless desert to make our phone calls...". Maybe the natural thing would be to start with the desert then?

Yes, I do talk about Sahara, as "sahara" is the Arabic word for desert. Where we stood was part of both Sahara and "sahara" (note that Sahara - the worlds largest desert - covers an area about the size of the United States).

We were standing silently in the Egyptian desert - west of the Nile - a section today logically named "The Western Desert" (previously called the "Libyan Desert"). This Egyptian part of the Sahara alone covers around 680 thousand square kilometres. Two third of the total size of Egypt. As numbers sometimes speak poorly, let me mention that the Western Desert of Egypt covers an area equal to Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Greece - combined.

For two hours ago we were lost in this desert, on our long tour back to the Nile Valley.

You just can't afford to get lost in this area, if you value your life that is...

The dark desert night came closer and closer; we had been driving kilometres by kilometres in an unknown direction - then suddenly even the reassuring humming sound from the motor got an edge of a question mark in its tone. We turned just before the point of no return, and in the end, found where we had turned wrong. Mustafa was relaxed all the time, but he had not said a word for the last hour before he said: "got it". We were back on the road on a roadless road. A grain of sand in an immense desert.

Got the impression I was talking about something boundless? Fact is that we so far only have been talking "peanuts".

It was after Mustafa had said "got it" and darkness had established its presence that I said, "can you stop - have to make a phone."

After nature was pleased and the eyes got used to the dark, I looked up and around. There, hovering above and around us in all directions was the greatest monument of Egypt.

Once before I had witnessed a stunning night while sailing alone 70 degrees north in the open Atlantic. Fifty meters from where I sailed in my small Troms færing (a smaller sailboat, a cousin to the Viking ships) - an enormous whale was passing while the Aurora Borealis drove slalom among the stars above. Not a night one easily forget. Other starry nights could be mentioned. This was nothing like it.

Until then stars had been like holes in a two-dimensional sky always making me wonder what was there behind them. This time there was nothing behind them; how could there be? This night, in a quiet four-wheel car, desert endlessly around and mile upon mile to nearest human settlement. The sky was not a covering around our globe anymore.

Never have I felt so small. Never did I feel so part of something so great. The stars from the closest one to those light-years after light-years away - and then all those in-between. This was not only a three-dimensional reality - it was all-dimensional as I never imagined anything could be. Are the stars yellow? Hey, they were alive in any colour. This reality was not only opening endless dimensions on all sides and above. Even under my feet - below the sand I was standing on, this reality made its presence. Endlessly under me. We were standing there in an endless sandy sea covering a part of the star we were standing on, part of the monument we were standing in.

Egyptians say their heritage belongs to the world - and then suddenly we were presented to this "monument" in the Egyptian desert which belong to the universe...

All this for just "P"-ing in the sand?

A small comment:
After this article first was published in the Canadian Suite101, a reader sent me this article about Russian astronauts. It turns out that Yuri Gagarin, the first Russian astronaut started a related tradition which all Russian astronauts have followed since. First, he saw the movie "Beloye Solntse Pustinny" ("White Sun of the Desert") the evening prior launching. The other tradition Gagarin established was that all Russian astronauts had to "P" in the desert - or as CNN writes "answer the call of nature" - dressed in a space suit on the way to the rocket. It can seem like cosmos got its unwritten laws (-:

Aakre Avatar

This article was first published 2001, in the Best-of-Web Directory Suite101 where Aakre also were Senior Managing Editor