The sky was blue and the day was beautiful. Abha was basking in sunshine and looked gorgeous. I was in love with Abha.
I almost forgot that I haven’t seen any feminine contours in a while, they have disappeared under the shapeless black abayas in this land. I almost forgot that I’m with a dozen guys who’ve been on the road for a while. Scruffy, shabby and unshaven, we looked like a bunch of hooligans walking out of a Western movie set. One could’ve easily expected Clint Eastwood to be the next guy joining in the gang. A week of driving across the country, topped up with an agreement to stay unshaven did not constitute to anything pleasant in our image. (Remember the journey that started with the Yemeni tea? We are still on the road) We were a bunch of ugly guys, looking even more uglier by our own choice.
Abha could make any road-weary gentleman forget about his decency and do the most unusual, out of spontaneity; lying there, watching the blue skies above me, I thought to myself. I had an annual-grin that stretched from ear to ear, and I was happy. I was thinking, I was dreaming, and I was reminiscing. Life throws in little surprises at the most unexpected moments.
I was lying in a public park, in the most popular local tourist destination in Saudi Arabia – Abha. It felt like Nuwara Eliya this time of the year – 15 degrees centigrade. It felt like my post-A/L trip around the country with my buddies, only this time, I was staring at the sky, very much sober.
In a country where nothing but sand dunes stretch from one corner to the other, Abha is a beautiful oasis in the mountains that brings back memories of home. Sitting nearly 7,200 feet above sea level, the chilly evenings remind me of my growing-up years in Diyatalawa. Lying in the grass, I was picturing myself running around the Army Polo Grounds and collapsing on the green grass when I ran out of steam. Once down and rolled over with my back on the grass, arms and legs stretched in four directions, I never had the heart to stop watching the clouds race after one another. They would create strange formations while battling to gobble each other up. I would spot faces, animals, and fun shapes that kept appearing and disappearing against the blue backdrop – I could just lie there watching the sky forever. The marvel of nature never ceased to fascinate me. It was peace, it was serenity. It was one of those beautiful moments, simple pleasures, in life.
I was having a similar moment, a few decades later. In the most unexpected place, mid-afternoon. It was the same sky, no clouds, and there were pink flowers instead of the pine needles.