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Happiness

When the evening came, and the sweet shrill cry of the kites, that fills the daylight, stopped, ‘Awiz appeared with three paraffin lanterns, which he dotted about the floor in various places, and, having given me my supper, departed to his home. The compound with its dim walls, its squares of moist earth planted with vegetables and few trees, grew infinite and lovely under the silence of the moon.

The gate of the city was closed now ; a dim glow showed where the sentries beguiled their watch with a hookah in the guard house ; at more or less hourly intervals they struck a gong suspended between poles, and so proclaimed the hour. And when I felt tired, I would withdraw from my verandah, collect and blow out the superfluous lanterns, and retire to my room. None of the doors shut easily, so I did not bother to lock them ; I had refused the offer of a guard to sleep at my threshold, the precaution was so obviously unnecessary.

As I closed my eyes in this security and silence, I thought of the Arabian coasts stretching on either hand :–three hundred miles to Aden ; how many hundred to Muscat in the other direction ? the Indian Ocean in front of me, the inland deserts behind : within these titanic barriers I was the only European at that moment.

A dim little feeling came curling up through my sleepy senses ; I wondered for a second what it might be before I recognised it : it was Happiness, pure and immaterial ; independent of affections and emotions, the aetherial essence of happiness, a delight so rare and so impersonal that it seems scarcely terrestrial when it comes.

Freya Stark
The Southern Gates of Arabia