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City of dreams and dust

with 5 comments

Now that blog title deserves to be the title of a novel if anything ever did.

Today I bring you a dream once again; not a funny post this time, but I think you’ll like it. Only occasionally do I remember a dream well enough to detail it hours after waking. But this? This was was fab and one day will likely be a location in a book I write. It’s so vivid and fantastic. I’ll give you the background to begin with.

In this dream I was on holiday in Tunisia and exploring an ancient city (still inhabited, but with many ancient things) alongside my dad and several other people. So the scene is set. I don’t know how vividly I’m going to be able to paint this, so bear with me.

(Note. I see, reading back before publishing, that I seem to leap tense an viewpoints a few times. I thought about correcting this, but this is not a novel. This is a dream, and should be a little disjointed and confused, so I leave/left/will leave this as it is, with all its faults.)

I shall now give you the guided tour of this mysterious dream city as I experienced it. Approaching along the gorge, the first impression is amazing. To either side the cliffs rise to impressive heights and there is a wide area before the town. The valley floor descends from a saddle, so you are looking down a slope at this. Like a giant low cylinder, inaccessible rocky cliffs rise in the centre with a city nestled on top. Just visible down the gorge to the left of it is an area of raised ground, like a step on the side of the cliff, on the top of which a well-preserved Byzantine theatre sits in dusty ruined glory. Getting to it will involve some climbing, but we are determined.

So. A is the first approach. Imagine a cross between these three but all jammed in a deep ravine.

Hopefully you’re getting something of the impression that I had. Imagine it now very brown and dusty, as one might imagine such a place in the mountains of central Tunisia.

We then make our way round the left ravine beneath the cliff upon which sits the town itself towards the theatre (B). I’m finding it hard to find a way to describe the theatre. Most of you will know what an ancient theatre looks like, I’m sure. So, to help, the closest I can picture in the real world to this monument is this:

After exploring the theatre, we travel round the back of the town, ignoring for now the narrow ascent, and to what you might consider the ‘opposite corner’. Here there is a waterfall (C). The water pours out of a hole in the cliff above, as though from an underground passage higher up than we are. Ther waterfall flows from here as a narrow river down the side of the ravine that we haven’t yet seen and disappears out into the valley However, at the base of the waterfall is a covered walkway that goes beneath and behind the waterfall. Here is the best impression I can manage of this:

And this is when it got kind of breathtaking. Behind the waterfall (D on the map) was a massive cave (there may have been a small hole in the centre high up open to the light now that I think about it) but mostly it felt like being in a cave, though it was quite bright inside. And the best bit? The cave was a huge, calm lake formed from the waterfall. Clear and glassy, it reflected and made gently lapping noises. And from the waterfall, the covered walkway continued across the lake on stilts until at the centre it became a wide, circular wooden covered pavillion surrounded by blue, almost glowing water. I give you the following to try and help create the impression:

Not, of course, meant be accurate, but to give you the feel and nudge you in the direction of the right impression. The interior of the pavillion was lit by lanterns and was decorative and beautifully peaceful. I was sort of sad to leave, while being excited because there was so much still to see.

We make our way back out past the waterfall and into the barren, brown, dusty heat. Now we backtrack, ignoring the narrow river, and to the ascent (E) that we passed on the way to the waterfall. This ascent is narrow and rocky and stepped. Clearly there were never any vehicles in the town. Nothing could reach it except on foot. It was a heck of a climb. Fof some reason my vertigo is not an issue here. This is as good an impression of the path as I can manage

Once at the plateau, we finally reach the town itself. Because the top is uneven, it is a maze of narrow streets and alleys with roofs sticking up between trees. The path we are (F) on appears to follow the top of a wall from where the ascent ends. There are numerous ways off this high path and down into the town. Sadly, we do not descend into the place itself. I’m not sure whether this was because of time constraints. I have the feeling it was possibly because of the danger of getting lost in the maze of paths and not being able to find one of only two exits from the town.

We stop briefly above the roofs to look down on G. G is a massive roof of Byzantine date, which is, in fact a great cistern that stores the rain water (and probably water carried by bucket and rope mechanism from the river below) and that feeds the entire town. This cistern is our only side trip from the wall, as it can be reached without going into the streets and we go to examine it before climbing back up to the wall. This is a composite collection to give you an impression of the town, its buildings, the wall, the cistern etc. Just gaze at them and let the feeling settle over you. Nice, isn’t it?

Sadly, once we reach the end of the wall-walk, what lies at the far end is another precipitous descent(H); the other exit from the town. Bidding a fond farewell and with a last, longing, glance across the rooftops, we begin to climb down. Once we reach the ground level once again, close to the narrow river, which we follow out of the ravine and back into the wider valley.

As dreams go, this one ranks up among my absolute all-time favourites. And I can still remember every last detail so clearly. Amazing.

Don’t you want to go there for real? When I have finished Dark Empress, and then likely Marius’ Mules III, I have several possible projects lined up, including a children’s book and one called Legion 23. However, I may have to shoehorn in another project in order to use this place. It’s just too amazing to waste. This is the third day in a row when my unconscious mind has told me I need to travel again. Wanderlust is now invading my dreams also.

Hope you enjoyed your virtual tour. Have a good weekend everyone.

For reference, the locations used to give impressions here include many that I just don’t really know, but also Constantine’s Basilica in Trier, Istanbul’s Cisterns, a ruined Armenian Cathedral, the walls of Girona, the paths at Masada, the Meteora monasteries, Petra’s theatre, and the Casale Rotondo near Rome.


Written by SJAT

January 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Hmmm sounds like a video game I once played….



    January 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm

  2. Marius’ Mules III? Legion 23? Sounds great! Have you given audio versions any thought?
    This tour was really neat. Such an exciting and creative dreamer you are. You write fascinating and beautiful scenes into your books, too.


    Red Sonja

    February 6, 2011 at 2:05 am

    • Problem is, I’m so beset with ideas for Legion 23 and so dying to write it, and I’ve still got 2/3 of Dark Empress and MM3 first…



      February 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

  3. Whichever you finish first I shall be thrilled to read!


    Red Sonja

    February 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm

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