Oasis at Taghit
Flies swarmed around her eyes.
She was a frail, wrinkled woman in her late forties, I guessed, but looking much older. Her face was dark brown, with tiny brown eyes to match. She never once swatted the flies away.
She sat in the sand beneath a date palm tree that offered a thin veil of shade. She wore a tan cloth wrapped around her head. The strands of gray hair that had slipped out from under it were stuck to her forehead with sweat. Her dress was also tan. It had no doubt once been dark brown but had faded with time. She was playing with a piece of dry reed, and her eyes kept shifting from it to me. She looked at me curiously, but privately, not wanting to be noticed, but to notice.
After a few minutes, she rose and came close — bringing with her an unknown language and an as yet unknown request. She wanted medicine for her eyes. I carried ointment along with remedies for other maladies that afflict the uninformed. Not that I was an angel of mercy, but more that I knew of no other commodity that my 65mph world possessed that could be so easily appreciated and accepted. I squeezed the by prescription only potion into the corners of the woman’s eyes.
Satisfied that the westerner had worked his wonder, she wandered off to sit beneath a stunted palm, scooped some dates from the sand, and munched them as she waited for her miracle to commence. I had arrived at the oasis of Taghit — a minute island of date palms on the edge of the Algerian Sahara.
Yesterday, my three traveling companions and I crossed the border. The guards kept us there for four hours, searching our belongings in hopes of finding anything that would justify the payment of a bribe. Mainly they looked for money, but drugs would also serve their purpose. It was forbidden to bring in the currency of their country, which could be obtained cheaply in Morocco. They claimed their Algerian money had great value — the rest of the world accepted about sixty percent of their claim.
About three and a half hours into the search, one of the guards found a wooden tube and was trying to figure out what it was. The tube was a magic trick I always carried to entertain the local kids — a premeditated attempt to communicate rather than alienate. The tube had a clown’s head on one end. When you twisted and folded it in half, it turned into a six-inch bunch of flowers. Silly, yes, but it has always served its purpose in helping me draw in someone or someones.
I said, “Regardez,” took it out of his hand, and commenced playing magician.
I tucked the trick under my arm, rubbed my hands together and blew on them, like with dice at the craps table. A few of the guards laughed at my antics. I took the trick in one hand, extended my arm, and held it up for the audience to see. I brought it down to waist level and, with a few waves of my hands, swiftly turned it into a bouquet. I handed it with a bow to Camas, who smiled, took it, and curtsied. It worked. We were allowed to repack and go on our way.
Written by: J. Jaye Gold
Jaye has traveled extensively and is the founding
director of the Center for Cultural & Naturalist
Studies, a charitable organization that focuses on
relief projects https://www.CCNS-INC.org. He lives
in Northern California and has authored four published books that
are available on amazon.com:
Another Heart in his Hand
Highway of Diamonds: An International Travel Adventure
The Roca Group
Photo Credits: J. Jaye Gold