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The Kadhan Pateji Left Bank Outfall Drain Project

Forget sand. A desert is a place devoid of stuff. A non-place. Somewhere so empty of features or interest that you have to resort to amusing yourself the best you can with what’s inside your head. That can be a disappointing experience. The absence of any features started playing tricks with my mind; I began to understand how people go mad in the desert. One by one, the layers are stripped away, your frame of reference disappears, in the same way that sound is swallowed by the emptiness, leaving no echo.

Some evenings just after sunset, driving the hovercraft back to camp, a slight mist made the horizon disappear and the sky and sea became seamless. A creeping sense of panic would set in. Losing all sense of place, I found myself disbelieving the compass, becoming unsure of what was level, what was up and what was down. The mirror-calm water offered no clues to our attitude or direction. Then a flock of birds would appear, with a corresponding reflection, and everything would jerk back into place - you could believe your eyes again, but your heart continued to hammer. The first time this happened, I glanced back at the hovercraft wake – for something to look at – and I realised that I'd been driving in a huge curve. After that I learnt to look behind me as well as ahead.