Fresh sea spray with a salty zing. A fusion of brine and moist greenery. Blasts of cool, bracing wind, recently washed by the changing tide. This was a different world from the dirty, bustling streets, which I was so used to. This was Montazah.
As I scrambled over the imposing, maze-like rocks and boulders, I felt exhilarated, as I hadn’t done for months; the very exertion of clambering over them filled me with an inexplicable feeling. The rocks themselves were hard, metallic grey and perilously slippery, algae glistening in its many shades of green, and resembling a huge jigsaw whose pieces didn’t fit together properly. From below, the crests of the jagged peaks were drawn against the sky, as though a small child had scribbled viciously across a page of baby blue.
Beyond their summit, the spectacular, mesmerising view of the endless Mediterranean unfolded before me. The horizon stretched limitlessly. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I was spellbound, enraptured by the captivating panorama and it was several moments before I realized that if I continued to stand there, I would be drenched like the sheer boulders beneath me. This awe-inspiring vista made me forget about everything. It was absolute. Mind-blowing. It filled me with wonder at the creations of the Almighty.
The turbulent, azure sea was foaming, seething with surges of wild sea horses. Wave after massive wave crashed onto the stubbornly pointed rocks relentlessly, completely soaking everything and everyone. A latent power pervaded, which was intimidating. I had to acknowledge it, standing there watching, while gusts of wind blew my hair everywhere. Grey-white gulls soaring over the water squawked above my head, their cries echoing into nothingness.
The sun shone with a weak lustre on the water and the plunging waves glittered like a giant’s handful of enormous turquoise jewels. The brilliant aquamarine hue and the sparkle and shimmer drove everything else from my mind. In the background, I could hear the muffled grunts from the anglers scattered along the rugged rocks, their gnarled fingers curled around their fishing rods.
Grabbing my swimming gear, I picked my way down the weathered shingle, which gradually formed into soft sand that coated my feet. I soon came to a small, private area enclosed like a lagoon; a sheltered world away from the rocks. Apprehensively, I slipped my toes into the clear blue water but withdrew them quickly; I was already shivering. When my body had adjusted to the extreme temperature of the icy water, I began to swim. No, not swim, struggle. Struggle against the strong current and the waves.
Nevertheless, I savoured the invigorating labour. Once, I felt myself in the invisible grasp of the water, but managed to crawl to the shore and sat spluttering and coughing up the briny wetness. I felt sorry for myself. Looking like a bedraggled specimen and shivering uncontrollably, my hands and feet were almost blue and my skin, especially my lips, had all but shrivelled up. I threw on my clothes as fast as I could and donned a thick jumper to shield myself from the elements.
I made my way back down the beach and past the rocks, into the beautifully landscaped former palace gardens, which retained remarkably their past regality. They held a certain peaceful tranquillity about them, which contrasted strikingly with the roar and thunder of the violent sea I had left behind. Myriads of humming bumblebees and the murmuring splashes of fountains mingled gloriously in the background.
The gorgeous warmth thawing me after the cold, blustery wind was welcome and my feelings of self-pity vanished. My hair whipped behind me, slowly drying out from the sun and the colour came back into my cheeks as I meandered through the gardens. A slight breeze ruffled the foliage and the cloudless sky was revealed as the canopy of tall tree branches was disturbed overhead.
My sharp ears detected the mellifluous twitter of hummingbirds, and a waft of honeysuckle tickled my nose. The gardens were a living mosaic of richly splashed colours. My eyes were drinking in the idyllic sight before me with a thirst I was loathe to quench: the vivid shades of the exotic flowers, the stunningly beautiful hues of the blossoming buds, the lush, startlingly green grass, bedewed with diamonds. Dragonflies zipped around like electric blue streaks on the wind. Ruby- and amethyst-like blooms glinted, nestled within velvet green; their perfume drifted on the breeze, sharpening my senses.
The forested areas were secretly alive, I heard creatures scurrying somewhere above me. There was a sleepy silence here, punctuated only by the rustlings of busy animals. Old leaves crunched beneath my feet as I walked and the crackle of twigs was sharp in my ears. Here and there quivering spots of gold found their way to the forest floor, filtering through the trees. The thick grass bounced back up behind me and its dewy smell filled the air. Vibrant butterflies floated around clusters of flowers and bushes, opening and closing their wings with such rapidity that it looked as though the air was full of flickering rainbows. There was a pure simplicity in the breathtaking beauty of Montazah. I wanted to stay in this forgotten corner forever.