Tonight’s flight to Doha is a bit different than last night’s flight to Istanbul from Toronto. Nine out of ten passengers are men over the age of 50 and I’m one of five women. There is a lot of snoring happening compared to this morning’s cries of small children. The flight route from Istanbul to Doha is right over Baghdad and Kuwait – the Eastern side, over Iraq and Iran. Despite being an avid traveler, this thought gives me uneasy butterflies in my stomach. My whole life, I’ve been taught to be afraid of exactly where I am, right now.
Instead, something beautiful happens.
The flight attendants feed us shortly after the lights of Istanbul fade and we are well on our way towards the Persian Gulf. There is something strange about my fussing over gluten amidst flying to the Middle East. So instead of eating, I look out the window.
It’s hard to tell where earth’s glow stops and the starry night sky begins as the moonlight reflects off the wing and the ground below, twinkling, ever so often. I stare out the window as the plane flies where the route map says ‘Baghdad’. And in this magical moment of introspection, I see a shooting star. A real shooting star. I haven’t seen one in years and go figure this is where it happens, while suspended in flight, with a bird’s eye view of what’s supposed to be one of the scariest places in the world.
Now, some I have told this story to make light of it and give various alternative answers to what it could have been that I saw, but I know what I saw. Growing up in Northern Ontario, I’ve seen my fair share of shooting stars and this. was. a. star. I’m assuming this specific shooting star is the result of a million wishes, rising from below. In between the horizon of velvet blue sky and sandy earth, there is our human race that loves and hates, in equal parts. A thought that chills me to the bone. My plane is not meant to touch down here but I was gifted this profound moment regardless. I am riddled with fear just being in this airspace but so utterly empowered by what I see, by how I feel.
It’s all worth it.
I will admit, I was afraid to take this trip to Qatar alone but tell myself it’s necessary. I need to free myself from preconceived notions about the way things are and see for myself, not through the eye of a media lens or read through scripted pen. Seeing the shooting star over Baghdad, well, maybe one of my own wishes was being granted.
This all is very introspective for 4 am but after 18+ hours in the air and nearly a day traveling to the other side of the world, I didn’t come to the Persian Gulf to think about unicorns and cupcakes – I came here to grow my mind. Society has taught me my whole life to be afraid and for once, I feel no fear.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to watch the sunrise.
Written by: Amber Long
Touring Toronto-based electronic musician, Amber Long
spends her days lost in travel and technology. If she’s not
working with it, she’s writing about it. Wanderlust wordsmith
and total health food fanatic that likes to climb mountains.
Photo Credits: Navid Mehr and Amber Long
For more ITKT travel stories about Iraq
For more ITKT travel stories about the Middle East