Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Revenge of the Rose and the Truck Road

One of the many strange and wonderful inventions to come from the mind of Michael Moorcock, one of the great novelists writing in English today, was that of the Gypsy Nation in his fantasy, The Revenge of the Rose. The Gypsy Nation was an enormous caravan of perpetually motive land leviathans that created a world-girdling road of compressed detritus, a huge pathway created from millennia of the caravan's discarded rubbish.

It was the first thing that popped into my head as we travelled down from Dibba to Sharjah: there’s a new road that snakes out through the foothills of the Hajjar mountains behind the Fujairah Cement plant, past the many crushers and quarries that now dot the landscape, and joins the Manama/Ras Al Khaimah road. And its continuation is a truck road, from Manama to just above Umm Al Qawain on the Emirates Road, that runs across the wide, rocky wadi plain and then carries on through the slowly changing landscape until it rises and falls through the red sands of the Northern desert. Dotted along the margins of this lone, straight pencil-line of blacktop is a constant litter of discarded tyres and occasional heaps of rocks that testify to delayed, and dropped, loads. And on the road itself, travelling both ways, is a constant slow-moving procession of heavy vehicles, laden with teetering loads of rock going south and empty (but still lumbering) travelling back north. It’s a nose-to-tail procession that mimics the constant grind of Moorcock’s Gypsy Nation, seemingly unstoppable, slow-moving and perpetual.

This groaning procession is the raw material that’s feeding Dubai’s frenzy of construction: the cement, stone and sand that are being poured together into the dizzying tower blocks and sea-raping palms of Dubai’s Miracle.

Isn’t it strange that they have to level mountains to build skyscrapers and demolish hills to reclaim the sea?

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