What follows is an excerpt from Following an Eastern Star. Here Jane first encounters the Sahara desert:
After two hundred miles and three days upon a desert road, we have finally arrived in Cairo. The trip here was a peculiar mix of the familiar and the exotic. The carriage I hired rivaled those of London. I have since learned that Egyptians have a long tradition in carriage making. The road too was well-maintained, being an important trade route between Alexandria and Cairo with many hostels along the way to feed and board hungry and tired travellers. Even the heat of the late October days – if you stayed out of the sun – was tolerable, no worse than high summer in Dorset. However, the desert Sahara held glimpses of a land far stranger and far more bewitching than I have ever encountered:
We pass through miles upon miles of golden sand spun fine by winds and shaped into undulating dunes that continue to an endless horizon. Late each day clouds build there, as though gathering to say farewell to the setting sun which creates a palette of red, orange, yellow, blue, and purple, first one color than the next until darkness. It falls quickly here, but every day before sunset we are in sight of our hostel, an oasis flashing grey-green palm trees and smelling of fresh herbs. There we are provided with a dinner of koshari, a rice dish with a spicy red sauce served with tea. Then moonless nights in which stars uncountable shine bright beyond imaging. Sleep comes on woven mats upon the floor. We women, in deference to our sex, are given a private room, no larger than a closet, while the men sleep together in a common room. A breakfast of ful medames, a bean dish served with eggs, cheese, and pita bread with tea -along with bird song – greet us in the morning. The first to leave are the caravans of camels. Their queer, lumbering gait cast moving shadows in the sunrise.
I have fallen in love again, with a place.