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An Hourglass Upturned

Adrar Region, Mauritania

"Mirages of mountains swell and plunge in golden hues. The eye clamours for something verdant against the arid loneliness. Shadows baulk under the stark sun, tethered to curving slopes, while the wrinkled sand continues uninterrupted."

Tender is a grain of sand. As it cumulates, it gains gravitas, inch by inch, until it belongs to such density that only the whipping wind may imbue it once again with fleeting lightness. Granules susurrate across the desert, tumbling into sweeping ergs and wadis – sand seas and valleys – altering its visage with such slightness only a true admirer would notice. Only the soft curvature of the dunes betrays its thankless task, under hazy, cool skies.

Any footfall which dares to challenge its magnitude is engulfed; any song is swallowed; any cloth marred rose-gold; and all abandoned things eventually consumed. The desert bends only to the will of the wind.

Mirages of mountains swell and plunge in golden hues. The eye clamours for something verdant against the arid loneliness. Shadows baulk under the stark sun, tethered to curving slopes, while the wrinkled sand continues uninterrupted. Silence saturates sound. A tree cracks the parched earth and extends emerald-clad branches skyward.

In the Adrar region of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, civilisation ekes out a livelihood by the grace of sporadic hamadas – rocky plateaus where the sand sifts through stone. Voices chatter and call from the escarpment. A wooden door clatters. Water canisters clank and slosh, making throaty sounds as their contents slop. Rope, cotton and linen, dust-coloured and coarse, are bound to braying donkeys; the fabrics lope from side to side as their bearers venture into the endless expanse.

Belts of vegetation cluster at the foot of craggy mountains, quenched by the nutrient-rich earth, while tufts of dry grass stare forlornly from afar. Life is treasured in its resilience, its fortitude and perseverance; steadfast as the solitary mountains which rise through mists of dry heat. The sand shifts again with the wind, uncovering scars of black rock, and a scent which transcends fragrance: it is the smell of purest, stony warmth, a primal earthiness that pangs at the core.

This desert home humbles and holds its inhabitants in precarious balance. The day scorches, the night freezes. The sand is at once completely barren and rich with sudden oases. It is a back and forth, a give and take. The beginning and end of all things. The sand shushes and soothes and slips from any grasp which tries to capture it. Just a little more heat and it would vitrify to trickling glass.

An Hourglass Upturned
An Hourglass Upturned
An Hourglass Upturned
An Hourglass Upturned
An Hourglass Upturned
An Hourglass Upturned
An Hourglass Upturned

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