WARMTH  

Rocks
From freshly parched earth
From mud forts and, gleaming
Sandstone embassies
From freshly quarried marble
From freshly tarred roads
From driving on roads
freshly cut out of hills

Sand
Beach sand, beige and glistening
Burns my feet, bare and tinkling
The yellow off, of the clear blue
Is it blue, green,
Turquoise or teal?
Shine, reflect
Glare, squint
 
Marble
On the inlay of the pattern
Of the floor in the lobby
On the stalactite in the mihrab
On the dome of the mosque
Imported far, the grains, the white,
Strong and modest
Beautiful, resilient
 
Prints
In psychedelic splendour
On the boy armed with
Kimah on head, football in hand
Blindingly intricate
The black and white patterns
Lines of fill and void
and everything Islamic
 
Patterns
On the frieze tile of the butcher shop
And the lintel band at the visa office
Arabesque, of crystals and dragons
Flowers and leaves
Geometric, of hexagons in circles
Diamonds in stars
Spans of focussed
Loving labour
 
Smoke
From sandstorms
that kill the wind
Of the hookah, smoked without a care
Of the frankincense burning in the air
From the big vessels of milk and love
Date halwa stirred, arm-aching
From the spits holding lamb and chicken,
for kubus-wrapped shawarma, grilling
 
Hmmmmmmm…
Is it in my ear, no, it is the compressor
Of the AC in the car, and every room
No humidity to compete
No skyscrapers or tall mountains
Or any form of wind tunnel
Only the hum for comfort and company
Close all doors and windows, please
 
Teeth
Of the friendly camel
Of the curious taxi-driver
Of the snarling cats of aluminium trash cans
Of the neatly bearded
Immigration officer
Of the neighbour’s shy son and
Of the landlord’s colourful daughter
 
Modest
And somehow sensuous
The black of the kohl, lining her almond eyes
The black of her abaya, flowing, sequins and lace
The black of the niqab, hiding her smile
As she walks by leaving me heady with sighs
from all that bakhoor
and all that Amouage
 
Light
From the iron cross facing the east, and
The steel crescent facing Saudi
From the cloud-free, barrier-free
Smog-free, filter-free
Piercing rays of light,
No photoshop,
just sharp clarity
 
Drops
More rare than sand
More dear than fuel
Oases cool, mirages fool
Wadis dry, but then become full
It’s the faint idea of gulping breathless
And yet a dozen beaches reek
Of plenty, of escape
 
Roads
With no people,
With nothing recyclable
Cleaner than our beds, smoother than waxed legs
Trees every 5 metres, flowers of all colours
No turn, no run, no din, no horn
Roundabouts with sculpture
Of fort, fountain, and fallen urn
 
Organised, calm, efficient work
Afternoon siestas, and plump paycheques
The country fares high on lists
Of Development and education
Comfort and satisfaction
No pushing, no shoving
No one jaded or berated
Is this place for real?
 
A king that loves peace, growth
And all religions
A people with a secure identity
Built on precious traditions
The souqs, fish markets,
caves and vistas
The matchbox houses, stucco bright
Their attire, airy and light
 
It’s warm here, in the air and in the heart
The sun is high on this vast expanse
No fuss, it is for real
This is the Sultanate of Oman