Ghar el-Melah, Tunisia
There was an inexplicable unity in all things I breathed, all things I saw. My eyes were hungry. My soul, thirsty. Climbing the hill as I fought the rays of the sun (which felt like invisible swords cutting through my body), I knew it would be worth it. From fire, to cool breeze. I would find it. I have to.
The weeds were long and the thorns poked at my legs, threatening greater action if I stepped any harder on the Earth. I complied and stepped lightly. Up, up. Beads of sweat formed on my neck, my forehead. A mini river was in the process of formation down the topography of my back. I was almost there.
Whenever I turned my head around, the sea greeted me with a gentle breeze. Go on, it seemed to say. Go on, perhaps you will find what you have been searching for. I doubted what the sea was telling me. As if Sea heard my thoughts, it gently echoed: Don’t worry. I will be here for you once you return. Go on.
I decided to trust the Sea’s words, and my leap of faith was rewarded in more ways than one.
I breathed in a sigh of relief. Slowly and tenderly stepping onto the first stone step, I looked up to marvel at what my eyes beheld. A large, white building, cool with the feeling of purity. So many rooms to explore, and an infinity of emotions to appreciate. I could hear some voices from inside, and the sound of water splashing onto soft pavement. I stepped in from heat, sun, torture. Dry, barren, cruel. I entered coolness, water, relief.
Walking ahead, I entered a dark room. The wrought iron windows allowed in the more benign of the sun’s rays. The nour created beautiful patterns that reflected on the water on the ground. Perched from the wall’s perimeters, a line of copper faucets. One woman was busy washing her face and arms as she muttered the name of the divine underneath her breath. She was cleansing her body before she engaged in prayer.
The voice of an older man was gracing the air as he read from the Qur’an in a room to my right. He was reading the words slowly, pronouncing each syllable delicately and carefully. He paused in between ayahs, or verses. In the silence between the verses, I listened intently to the sound of the breeze, which caressed each wall, each corner, as a whispered dedication caressing a lover. You could actually hear the gentleness and kindness that the breeze inflicted on the hearts of those present. Maybe it was the white walls – roughly cemented, the white paint the walls were drowned in reflected All. They reflected the intentions of those present.
They reflected tranquility and calm and in the midst of collective soul searching. My heart felt like a mess. Each heartbeat felt like a battle. Yet that day, I discovered that nirvana could only be found in those spaces in between each heartbeat. Between each verse. Between each battle.
Glancing ahead, I saw a young boy sitting on a step, underneath a wide arch, contemplating the encompassing sea. I felt like him and the Sea were one.
Perhaps the Sea thought of him, too.
As for me, I was just lost in the embrace of Ghar el-Melah.