svetlana baghawan maverickbirdWe had left Omak in a cloud of dust, bumped over the edgy road and rattled our bones till they had felt brittle. Nogid had been experiencing, yet one more blazing hot day and I had wanted to escape the heat, before it became unbearable. Our next stop had been Qalanciya, which had been on the opposite end of the island. Located in north west Socotra, Qalanciya had guaranteed more than 3 hours of drive and the island’s 2nd largest town supposedly had a spectacular beach. Post Omak experience, although I had mentally brushed off Anwar’s brags, the idea of exploring another part of the island had excited me a lot. The road had retraced our initial journey all the way near Hadibo and once again, I had gaped at Socotra’s central highland’s captivating beauty. It had been a sunny, windy day and the lonely, vast valleys and canyons had been deathly still.

No skippy, hoppy team of goats had rushed in front of our car, no Bedouin lady had stood out in blazing colours and wildflower petals tugged out by the wind, had floated in the air like handfuls of mad butterflies. Stone houses, devoid of any life movements had stood like remnants of abandoned human habitats and frankincense trees had struggled against the force. One of the 3 precious Gifts of Magi, frankincense can be traced back to pre Biblical times. Ancient Egytpian Pharaohs had loved it so much that frankincense traders had been immortalized on the walls of Queen Hatshepsut’s (who had died in 1458 BC) temple. The legendary Queen Sheba’s empire had been mentioned in Old Testament as traders of frankincense and the Greeks and Romans had valued it more than gold. The Chinese, not to be the ones to be left behind, had treasured it as a symbol of luxury and the maritime Indian traders had built fortunes on it.

In Socotra, although the frankincense trees are found in lush abundance around the Homhil Plateau, we had passed a few stray ones on our way to Qalanciya. To help me enjoy it’s perfume to the fullest, Anwar had lit a small twig inside the car and immediately a most soft, heady aroma had engulfed us like a cloud. The fragrance had lingered for the next few days and suddenly the world’s obsession with the ancient aromatic resin had become clear. With the sun playing hide and seek among the clouds and sharp wind tearing at our hair, we had driven non stop leaving the arid rocky reds of Nogid and flower filled Diksam in a flash. Qadama had appeared immediately upon descending from Diksam and surprisingly there had been no trace of the wet winds from the south. A pit stop between Hadibo, the main town and nearly every other part of Socotra, Qadama had been marked by a long coastline, stunning, desolate plains, shadowy mountains and one of the island’s only 2 gas station.

A few lagoons had been scattered along the way and camels, goats and humans had again made their busy presence felt. Salt production workers had been hard at work and their rusty, old trucks had been parked next to the road. I had stopped briefly to peek into one of the green lagoons and had been startled by it’s teeming depth. Huge catfishes, barnacles and big red crabs had rushed up to nibble at my toes and I had skipped over the rocky edges, squealing in pain. Small fishing villages had dotted the beach in small pockets and colourful boats had bobbed on deep blue water. It had been quite a contrast between Nogid’s morning emptiness and Qadama’s afternoon liveliness and the mountains which had run along one side of the road had somehow divided the 2 existences. Small violet wild shrubs had carpeted till their foot hills and along the beach, village mosques had stood out against a huge blue sky.

The sun had been high, by the time we had entered Qadama and Socotrans had taken breaks from their chores to rest in the shades. They had smoked, stared and and waved at us as we had passed and with only a few tourists landing up in Socotra every month, recognizing outsiders had been a great pass time for the curious residents. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the road to Qalanciya had bent deep inside the island’s mountainous folds and it had been 3 in the afternoon, by the time Socotra’s 2nd largest town had appeared. The area around the town had been heavily littered and apart from a brand new hospital, Qalanciya had been a smaller, dirtier version of Hadibo. Dusty lanes had meandered into narrow bylanes where stone houses had stood in rows and a few new constructions had looked oddly out of place amongst them. It had been a Friday when we had hunted around the deserted village for an open store and muezzin’s call for prayer had rung through the silent date groves. Every house had borne an empty look and all the village lanes had been devoid of any life form.

Because of it’s desolation, I had not disliked Qalanciya a lot and had actually looked forward to see it’s much reputed beach. The hot mirage like afternoon air had borne an acrid smell when after replenishing our stock, we had finally headed towards the beach. Unfortunately a most heartbreaking sight had met my eyes because Qalanciya promenade had been horribly littered. The lovely mirror like little lagoon had been almost choked to death with florescent green algae and slippers, flotsam and jetsam, used diapers, plastic etc had been scattered in a most heartless manner. In the distance, rusty Yemeni army war tanks had pockmarked gorgeous sand coated mountains and it had been perhaps the most unexpected a sight to ever find on a beach. Disappointed to the core, I had seethed and ranted in annoyance when a very calm (and possibly non listening) Anwar had screeched the car to a stop. Urging me to get out, he had stared into the distance holding his expansive arms in a dramatic pose and I had halfheartedly followed his steps. But what had stretched had been nothing short of a slice of paradise and I had whooped in joy at the sight of Dewta Lagoon.

White, translucent blue and empty, it had been absolutely breathtaking and I had insanely wondered if the joy of such heavenly beauty could be passed to an unborn child by a mother. Wild thoughts and an excited me had urged Anwar to race ahead and we had chortled gleefully in childish enthusiasm all the way to my beach hut by Detwa.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

I had left Zahak

I had left Zahak

Omak

Omak

And rest of Nogid

And rest of Nogid

Quite happily

Quite happily

And retraced

And retraced

Our drive towards

Our drive towards

Towards north west Socotra

Towards north west Socotra

Lagoons

Lagoons

Lighthouse and

Lighthouse and

Frankincense had

Frankincense had

Dotted along the way

Dotted along the way

And camels had roamed

And camels had roamed

Wild and free

Wild and free

It had been

It had been

A good drive

A good drive

And Socotra's

And Socotra’s

Isolation had been enchanting

Isolation had been enchanting

It had been hard

It had been hard to imagine

That a place lovelier

That a place lovelier

Than Nogid

Than Nogid

Diksam and

Diksam and

Delisha could exist

Delisha could exist

When the pastel colours

When the pastel colours

Of Qalanciya had stretched in front of my eyes

Of Qalanciya had stretched

Had stretched in front of my eyes

In front of my eyes