Amanda Ross is an average 12 year old who finds herself ensconced in mystery and intrique in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates. Join Amanda on her first adventure as she discovers the secrets of the perfume flask
Amanda Ross is an average twelve year old Canadian girl. So what is she doing thousands of kilometres from home in the United Arab Emirates? It's her own fault really, she wished for adventure and travel when she blew out those candles on her last birthday cake. Little did she know that a whole different world awaited her on the other side of the globe, one full of intrigue, mystery and folklore. A world with a beautiful princess, a dangerous desert and wonderful friends.
Amanda Ross closed her eyes, made a wish and blew out the candles on her birthday cake. She could have wished for anything, a new skateboard, an MP3 player or even a new bike; instead, Amanda wished for travel and adventure.
When she got the ticket in the mail to visit the United Arab Emirates she wasn’t surprised; after all, she had blown out every one of those twelve candles. All she knew about the United Arab Emirates was that her aunt and uncle lived there. When she found it on the globe in her dad’s office it looked awfully far away. Way farther than Regina and she hadn’t been anywhere past there. Perhaps she should have been more specific and asked for travel and adventure in Canada. In the future, she would be more careful when she made a wish.
A huge fan whirled overhead and a weird sound came from somewhere outside the window. Amanda sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. Where was she? The room was unfamiliar. A clock in the corner glowed a green 4:30 A.M. There was that strange sound again, something between a chant and a moan. It got louder. She spotted her open suitcase on the floor and remembered. She was half–way around the world, visiting her Aunt Ella and Uncle Ben in the United Arab Emirates.
She tiptoed to the balcony of the third floor apartment. The tiles under her bare feet were still warm from the heat of the day before. There was a breeze coming off the sea but it was still pleasant enough to stand outside in her cotton pajamas. She watched the moon shimmer on the water and noticed the glow of a white mosque in the distance. The odd sound seemed to come from that direction. She felt like she was having a bizarre dream. Maybe she’d wake up and find herself back in her bedroom in Canada.
Amanda still couldn’t believe she had traveled all that way by herself. She had been excited, but nervous to go so far on her own. It turned out alright. Traveling without her parents was great. For one thing, she could do whatever she wanted. Her parents were OK, but all their rules drove her crazy. The people in the airports and on the planes were nice to her and treated her like a grown–up. The fifteen–hour flight didn’t even seem that long and had been super cool.
An Arab boy, returning home to Dubai, had turned off his headphones long enough to tell her to call the United Arab Emirates either the UAE or Emirates otherwise she would sound like a dork. No one, he reported, no one called it the United Arab Emirates unless they were fresh off a boat – or airplane in this case.
Before she left Calgary, Amanda wasn’t sure what to expect and was surprised to find that the country was so beautiful. Not beautiful in a pretty sort of way, but beautiful in an awesome sort of way. From the very start she knew she had come to a fascinating place.
Amanda was so tired when her Uncle Ben picked her up in his Jeep Cherokee from the Dubai Airport, but she didn’t dare fall asleep in case she missed something. She noticed the barren scenery of sand and rocks as they sped along the modern highway, interrupted occasionally with a splash of green, date–palm groves or white–washed buildings. Every so often, a magnificent mosque would rise up out of the landscape; the crescent moon-topped minarets reached far into the cloudless sky. The mosques looked even more amazing and mysterious than the pictures she had seen on the internet. It was all so unreal, like she had disappeared into a book. Even though she fought to stay awake, her eyes closed and her mind drifted to scenes of Aladdin from the stories she had read when she was little.
“You wanted to see a camel, Amanda. Well, look over here,” said her uncle, as he gestured out his window.
Her eyes popped open and there he was, her first camel, sauntering along the side of the road without a care in the world. He looked friendly and sleepy. She wanted to get out of the jeep, put her arms around him and give him a big hug.
“I can arrange it if you’d like to ride a camel,” said her uncle with a grin. “That is, if you’re not scared.”
“Scared? No way,” said Amanda, as she thought about what her friends back home would say. The most they could hope for this summer was a ride on a dude–ranch pony.
Uncle Ben stopped for gas at what looked like a regular Texaco gas station, except the writing on the sign was in the fluid lines of Arabic. A young man came over to the jeep. She recognized the long, flowing, white dishdasha and a white ghutra headdress tied in place with a black twisted rope from her internet research. He looked like he had stepped out of a storybook, or the bible.
He held out his hand and asked, “Where are you from?” His brown eyes were warm and friendly.
“Canada,” she said and shook his outstretched hand.
With a generous smile, he said, “I am Ali, welcome to my country!”
“My name is Amanda.” She smiled back, happy to have made her first Arabian friend.
The colour of the sand changed from creamy white to mocha to rust as they drove north toward the jagged mountains in the distance. Uncle Ben explained that there were many different colours of sand in the Emirates.
Amanda could feel her head bobble again even though she fought to stay awake. Soon they were driving alongside water that was so blue and clear it seemed like a post card. The blazing sun’s rays bounced off the water leaving a haze of sparkles.
“Is this the Persian Gulf?” Amanda knew that if she talked it would help her stay awake.
“Yes, it is,” said her uncle. “And if you were to take a boat and head straight across that way,” – he pointed – “you would land on the shores of the ancient land of Persia. Now, of course, the country is called Iran.”
“I’d much rather go by flying carpet,” Amanda laughed as she imagined a ride with Aladdin in search of ancient hidden treasures left behind by Alexander the Great.
“That ride will be a little more difficult to arrange,” replied her uncle, pretending to be serious. “But I’ll see what I can do.”
The foamy surf casually rolled over the fine, undisturbed sand. Amanda wondered why there were no people on the miles and miles of lonely, spotless beaches. Young school children lined up outside a school as they drove past. The children wore school uniforms similar to the kids back home. The teachers wore the traditional long, black overdress, called an abaya. Some covered their face with a sheer veil, others with a burqa face-mask that left only their eyes showing, and some did not cover their face at all.
The sun shone, the water glistened, the people smiled and waved, and little goats ran across the road as they traveled across unfamiliar territory. ‘What a totally amazing place I have come to,’ thought Amanda, as she finally dozed off.