Archive for April, 2014

Saudi Arabia is mostly desert. The land, the buildings and sometimes the sky are dusty and brown. People seek respite from the heat in the malls, but for a splash of green, the choices are few. Salam Park is a lovely getaway in the midst of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Emerald lawns, palms trees, acacias and walking paths surround an artificial lake. Food kiosks scattered around the park are numerous and peddle boats are available for hire.

In much of the world Salam Park would be rather ordinary, just one of many parks scattered across a major city. In Riyadh, however, it is an island of calm in a city dominated by cement and concrete. Birds twitter and play in the sprinklers. Families fish in the lake. Normal stuff. But breathing fresh air into one’s lungs, being a part of nature is such a rare treat in Riyadh that a trip to the park becomes almost a religious experience.

Because this is Saudi Arabia, religious practices are observed even at picnics. The park has its own mosque and the call to prayer is broadcast at the appointed times. A designated outdoor prayer area occupies the prettiest view spot in the park on a small hill. Prayer rugs await the faithful.

I want to send up prayers of gratitude for sunshine and shade trees and the stray cat twitching his tail as he watches the flock of birds pecking at worms in the damp grass nearby. The next call to prayer is hours away. But I can’t wait. I pray now.ImageImage.

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