In 1916, Robert Frost penned the iconic poem The Road Not Taken, which touched on the immense spiritual possibilities that lay before the writer if he took an unknown path.
Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”
For this National Day, I travelled the UAE’s roads less taken to unearth the poetic splendour a scenic ramble through rural Arabia offers the mind and soul.
We must slip the surly bonds of the city,
From Shaikh Zayed’s throbbing highway vein
Carrying restive urban cells of pity.
Should the eagle not leave her nest of levity,
Her rural game she would not claim.
Our road through old Sharjah goes,
Where dappled clouds hover over clamour,
Into Ajman. Threading narrow backstreet throes,
Past the limpid clock tower and empty shop hollows,
To the open-air bazaar; hagglers going tong and hammer.
On Umm Al Quwain’s outstretched beaches,
Creaking dhows bob like contented buoys,
And cast shadows like shimmering leaches,
As water fills their underbelly breaches.
East now we turn; leaving tranquil poise.
Piercing Ras Al Khaimah’s fissured Hajjar hills,
Splashed green, grey and ochre by the sallow sun
We find sequestered Dibba, where the sapphire sea stills,
And craggy-faced fishermen line the port with fresh kills.
Piqued goats, bony cats and toothless Arabs look on
From crumbling earth after what Gonu’s thunder done.
Rumbling down Fujairah’s coiling coast,
Sandy is the amber sky; amber is the sandy plain.
Al Badiyah offers her sacred, ancient oath,
And off the beaten track, in gnarling undergrowth,
Al Hayl stands, in a mellow apricot frame.
‘But now volte face; to the capital you must steer.
‘Serenity is there,’ says our muse Tiresias, immortal Greek seer.
At Liwa we chase the sand-swept wind that peels
Along the skirt hem of the rolling Empty Quarter.
In the desert, calm is all nature as resting wheels.
Not a breeze, no breath of air. Silence steals
The soul. But everywhere, life punctures the dry vista.
Let us go now, you and I,
Where unstained day is spread against the sky.
Where neither office folk nor fax machine can sigh,
Up, up Jebel Hafeet, soaring with jagged majesty on high.
One thousand metres tall, we espy oblivious dummy towns whirring below.