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When was the last time you played with sand? Two decades ago, perhaps? I had the opportunity to indulge in childhood pastimes last week. Alhumdullilah for the pleasure of that experience.

About 45 km from the city center on the Dubai-Hatta highway is a region called Margham. It is characterized by the endless stretch of light-golden desert with undulating dunes. It is also a chosen area for dune-buggy riding, camping and star-gazing.

We reached the point at maghrib time, offered our prayers at the masjid on the highway and then proceeded further inroad to select the perfect picnic site. We chose the highest and the steepest dune to lay our picnic spread. Since it was a moonless night, it was very dark in the desert. There were no street lights and no cars. Just the fading glow of the Sun past setting.

The sand was like powder under our feet and we would sink knee-deep in it with each attempt at scaling the imposing dune. Amid laughter and breathlessness we reached the summit on all fours. The destination was worth the efforts – a pleasure for the senses it offered. It was dark- the kind of darkness that offers you privacy and is also comfortable; the kind of darkness that accentuated the glimmering whiteness of the desert. It was absolutely quite – the kind of stillness that offers peace and invites you to hear your own thoughts. It was breezy – as if the gentle wind wanted to join in and be a party with this group. The sand was clean, soft and cool inviting us to delve deeper to discover her warmth.

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Childhood memories were rekindled. We rolled in the sand. We dug and buried our legs under it. We slid on the slopes. We searched for any ‘buried treasure’. But one look at the sky and I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of the night.

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The sight that made me gasp with awe and amazement was of the infinite stars that adorned the heavens. Never before had I seen the brilliance of a naturally lit sky. I stretched out on the sand facing up to the jewel-encrusted dark space ahead. I knew now why poets for centuries likened the veil of their beloved to a star-studded heaven. I had the time, leisure and mood to sum them up, but soon lost count after reaching eighty. A number of shooting stars were also witnessed in action. I stayed there, with sand beneath and sky above me, for more than an hour (probably even catching a short wink in that period) doing nothing but gazing at those magnificent creations of Allah.

These stars are created by Allah as an adornment for the sky – like lamps. (Fussilat 41:10)

These stars are created by Allah to be used as missiles to ward off evil Jinns. (Fussilat 41:11)

These stars were used by early people to navigate their way. (Nahl 16:16)

These stars remind of the Day when they will be rolled-up like a scroll by Allah. (Anbiya 21:104)

These stars remind one of the distance and manner in which people of one level of Jannah will gaze at the people of the next level. *

These stars and this sky are from the signs of their Creator – Al-Khaaliq. (Al-Imran 3:190)

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These reflections are what we city-dwellers miss-out on in our daily lives. We surround ourselves with sights, noises and stimulus that just assault our senses. By not connecting with nature, we have deprived ourselves of the pleasures and virtues of contemplation – the natural process that connects us with Allah and reminds us of HIM.   

Those who remember Allâh standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): “Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” (Aali Imran 3:191)

None of us wanted to return home. But, return we did. Not before making plans for our next trip though!

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* “The people of Paradise will be able to see the people in the apartments above them as you see the shining stars on the horizon in the east and the west, because of the differences in their status.” [Bukhaari, 2082; Muslim, 2831] 

 * Contact the Dubai Astronomy Group to learn the details of their star-gazing trips around the UAE.      

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