Expat Eyes

This blog contains the photographs, observations and reflections of Rena Diana, an educator and writer, during extended stays in the Arabian Gulf, China, and Mongolia.

Sand Sifter

“This is my first journey across the desert; I have no useful knowledge.”

Freya Stark, Baghdad Sketches, 1932


On first glance, the sands of the Arabian Desert are a flat expanse of bleached beige. But as the sunrays and shadows shift, and you venture deeper and deeper, countless colors and contours reveal themselves.  A palette of muted hues evoking the spices of the East: curry, saffron, and cardamom.  The dazzle of gems and minerals embedded within the earth’s core: quartz, amber, and copper. And what begins as an even surface, a simple spread, twists and folds into an elegant fabric of pleated satin and suede, sliding up and down dunes of dizzying heights.

The desert, with its fusion of tints and shapes, bold yet subtle and surprising, mirrors the complexity of the Arab world. Both are multi-layered and multi-textured, defying boundaries, constantly shifting, simmering with a sturdy life force- a coarse brutality softened by wind song, moon shine, and star light.

It is not my purpose in this blog to discuss the conflicts that seethe in the Middle East. Here is where I landed for a little while, at a historical moment in time. I am an outsider, which is humbling, for it challenges me to see with new eyes and a sense of wonder, without judgment or agenda. There is something to learn every single day, no matter the setting. It is liberating and energizing to be an anonymous observer. I am curious about the unique customs of different countries. Even more, I am interested in the lives of ordinary people, the similarities among us…for, ultimately, we are all like the desert dwellers, the Bedouins, charting our course from day to day.

“Every Bedouin, every traveler, must become a philosopher.”

Toni Briegel, Soul of Sand, 2002

Next Post: Back to the Future!


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3 thoughts on “Sand Sifter

  1. Mary J Sullivan on said:

    Rena, we are enjoying your blog. Words, well written, bring us closer and encourage new knowledge and discovery. Your words have achieved that and more! Thank you.

  2. danazinnaumann on said:

    Rena, this is going to be so much fun ! I know I am going to learn a tremendous amount as I see the world from my only v ery minute part of space.

  3. Hello Rena! I must say, this was a welcome break from my boring desk work and herding of children. Your beautiful words illustrate the images to perfection. Now that I have been warmed by your fire, I am off to find more dirty socks.

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