A major roadworks project is underway, along the main road from Shali (the centre of town) to Dakrur and Cleopatra Spring.
Raised footpaths are being built outside the houses and stores. These will make it possible to walk more easily if there is another downpour and the road is flooded and turns to ankle deep mud as it did earlier this year. However I can also see a lot more effort for the women in their long dresses and covers as they have to clamber up and down the high footpaths to get into their houses. Also, children can’t fall far from flat sand, which the footpaths replace, but there will be a lot of tumbles from these raised paths, and here the streets are the playground of any child from walking age, from early morning often until 11 or 12 at night.
The process of construction is that a cement surround is poured, then filled with sand, which gives the children an instant playground as the sand sits in piles for a few days at each stage of the works. Then the sand and cement are covered with rocks and cement. I can’t help but think that my Mum would have loved this, as she was a keen rockery creator at both the houses we lived in. I can only feel for the men working in the 30 degree plus full sun, lifting the heavy rocks and mixing the cement. Spaces have been left for existing trees and some new trees have been planted. and when these grow to fullness they will provide always appreciated shade on the walk and a good spot to sit outside the houses, where the men often gather in small groups in the evenings.
I am in two minds about the changes – it does make the town look neater, less worn at the edges by desert, but the orderliness and colours of the rock and cement, their very constructedness, also takes away some of the pleasure of the sand dusty walk, the feel of timelessness I had going along there most days.
Probably the sand will mellow the look in time. I also suspect the roots of the palms, gum trees and other plant will have their way and push up through the rockery, so in ten years time it will blend into this weathered and cracked townscape as everything else man made here does.