svetlana baghawan maverickbirdAbdullah’s cave had been something out of Arabian Nights and I had marveled at his incredible life. Remnants of big catches like the fateful whale, a few sharks and dolphins had decorated the cavernous interiors and fishing nets set for drying had marked off his bedroom from the sitting area. Abdullah had a few other guests that day and apart from me, there had been a Norwegian trio and an Italian solo traveler. All of us had been in the same position and from being slightly patronizing, we had gone straight to being almost dopey in admiration. Abdullah had loved it and had lapped up our crazy fan behaviour. Being surrounded by such an awe struck audience had perhaps made his dream come true and he had cooked, smoked and regaled us with his fishing adventures. So while we had sat inside a whale’s jaw and munched on oysters, calamaris and cinnamon tea, Abdullah had trained us on fishing techniques and secrets of the lagoon.

It had been a very entertaining evening. We had feasted on an orgasmic spread of fresh seafood, laughed like children at Abdullah’s tales and watched a beautiful golden sunset creating miracles over the tranquil little Detwa. To give us the complete experience of Qalanciya and his daily life, Abdullah had shepherded his little group into the shallow water of the lagoon and soon we had found ourselves stepping over oysters, sea grass and soft squishy sand beds. Starfishes had scuttled away at our approaching footsteps and octopuses, urchins, seahorses and puffer fishes had observed us from safe distance. Drenched in the golden shower of setting sun, we had walked slowly and languorously with rushing tide rippling around our feet. It had not been easy though and after watching baby squids bursting open from translucent white eggs, I had gladly returned to my hut. With so less to do, Qalanciya nights had been most relaxing and being completely out of all communication range, I had truly indulged the time on myself.

Suddenly all my favourite songs had been enjoyed, old buried memories had been raked and I had idly wondered if the reef shark had visited Detwa’s water at night to lay her eggs in safety. Because of it’s bottle neck mouth, which had prevented the entry of large predators, Detwa had been a favourite nesting ground for the sea mothers. Expecting squids, octopuses, turtles and sharks had frequented the lagoon at night and there had been plenty of young ones frolicking or embedded in it’s soft safe sands. This had brought aquatic birds in hordes and during low tides flamingos, gulls etc had waded on it for hours. Apart from frequenting Abdullah’s cave, fishing and hiking up the sugary white sandy mountains, my favourite Qalanciya activity had been to swim and sun for hours on it’s tranquil, empty beach. Most of the times, it had felt unreal to watch only my footsteps tracing across a beautiful expanse on earth and as usual, the light had played stunning magical illusions. I had swum, floated and had aimlessly played with strange thoughts on my mind.

I had loved floating on the blue green ocean, being one with the restless waves and during my most poignant moments had imagined them to carry me all the way to my loved ones. That had perhaps been the closest, I had ever come to know how a marooned man at sea must have felt and it had been deeply liberating to luxuriate in such aimless thoughts. The solitude and the silence of the beach had been complete and more than once, I had to wait for tide to ebb, to be able to get back to Detwa. During high tide, the slice of beach had been completely cut off from the rest of the semi circular lagoon and during that complete isolation, I had counted huge clouds racing across the sky. Socotra had been a land of magical skies and dramatic falling light and one night, I had witnessed a huge lightning suddenly crack open the black inkiness in the distance.

Such had been the complete natural innocence of Qalanciya and I had given in to it’s breathtaking power without any protest. Only the rusty Yemeni war tanks, perched on the mountains had been terrible eye sores and more than once, I had wondered if I had been watched during my swims. It had not been a pleasant thought and later I had started getting accompanied by the other solo traveler. Thus eating, swimming, sleeping, fishing and gossiping had marked my Qalanciya days and needless to say, I had lingered there longer than planned.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

What would you

What would you

If you were alone

If you were alone

In paradise

In paradise

And it belonged

And it belonged

Solely to you?

Solely to you?

Qalanciya had been

Qalanciya had been

Completely mine

Completely mine

And devoid of

And devoid of

Any commercialization

Any commercialization

My Qalanciya

My Qalanciya moments

Had been something

Had been something

Usually found in dreams

Usually found in dreams

So I had fished

So I had fished

Floated

Floated

Lazed

Lazed

Hiked

Hiked

And chased clouds

And chased clouds

Then there had been

Then there had been

Those sunsets

Those sunsets

Sometimes moody and

Sometimes moody and

And mostly glorious

And often glorious