Friday, December 28, 2007

Dakhla Oasis: A Place for Hantavirus

The end of my desert excursion is near, I take a step back in time as I stand on the street in Dakhla Oasis. A sleepy, one camel town separated from Libya and Sudan by nothing but endless miles of sand, gravel, and rock as dry as twice burnt toast. Most locals appear to be farmers, growing dates and some sort of hay-like camel and horse feed plant that I've already forgotten the name of.

But the best thing about Dakhla Oasis is the old city. Ancient residents constructed the old city with mud-brick, and much of the old buildings still stand. I remember making a crude imitation of mud brick as a child during Bear Valley Church's summer day camp. Back then I never imagined I'd stand in a place where such buildings actually existed. I started wandering around the old city and noticed that residents have abandoned most of the mud brick, although some are still occupied. Its kind of unfortunate, because all of the new buildings are constructed with a very ugly concrete or some sort of very low grade white brick (even uglier than the concrete).

The mud-brick section of the city is only partly inhabited and most of it has fallen into disrepair. Wandering around in the abandoned parts, I thought back to Anasazi ruins in Arizona and Utah that I've seen before. This place had a similar haunting presence of a glorious past that is no more. Except that folks still lived in some of these places. Garbage and trash was strewn around the sections that looked used.

The abandoned sections, with all their interconnected rooms, tunnels, stairs and passageways all made me think just one thing, "There's probably a lot of rats, mice, and rodents around here. And they probably carry hantavirus, boubonic plague, rabies, and a bunch of other diseases I don't wanna get."

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