Singing Sands and Syria

Today’s song is the fabulous Leona Lewis singing Footprints in the sand. Live!

Artwork © Lauren Delora Sears


One of my fondest memories is of a trip we did to Turkey and Syria back in 1996. Yes that long ago! We had our three daughters with us aged between three and thirteen years old.

We did all the touristy things in Istanbul like the Aya Sofia,Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. It is amazing just to be in a city that has been around so long that its name has changes a few times.

The boat trip up the Bosphorus should have been a relaxing affair but a certain three year old kept asking annoying questions. When we got back we ate fish sandwiches and watched the traffic stream across the Galata Bridge. Ah yes, the bridge between East and West – the whole place oozes history.

We caught a plane down to Adana, on the South Coast, and I remember thinking that it was odd to have the passengers all clap when the pilot made a safe landing. I have since learned that it isn’t the only place in the world that does that and it doesn’t mean that there was a near emergency landing!

When we left Adana we were headed for Syria on a local bus. The music is amazing, no matter which song was playing it seemed to keep beat with the bounce of the bus. It would have been an amazingly bumpy ride without it.

Given the events of the last couple of years, the time we spent in Syria, is priceless. It wasn’t the kind of holiday a typical family from Oamaru had, back then. Being a Muslim country, the etiquette between the men and women, had interesting repercussions for our daughters. We had been to Malaysia before but this was so different. Women aren’t allowed to sit next to men who aren’t their brothers or husbands so while it was fine for the younger two, it wasn’t for the thirteen year old. It was musical chairs every time we went on the bus.

The whole trip was stunning and it cemented, in us, an enduring love for the Middle East. We have been to Oman a couple of times since and the countryside is quiet and peaceful – apart from giant stinging hornets about 5 cm long!

One thing I never did get to do was go out and camp out in the desert. We did get to ride on camels and pay a fortune for the photos but camping out under stars, among the sand dunes would be a fabulous experience.

I’d love to go back to Oman, especially. Oman is one of the places where you can hear singing sand dunes. The idea of being out there for a few days and hearing the sand sing seems just so cool. It’s not new. Marco Polo was reported to hear them. It has a big deep voice, though, and sings during avalanches. The avalanches can be triggered by people walking on them. The frequency doesn’t really depend on the size or shape of the grains but the diameter. And they all stick together – all of the dunes in an area sing at the same frequency.

So how come not all sand dunes sing?

It seems that only dry, well sorted sand sings. It can be quite loud – up to 110dB. That’s about as loud as a car horn or a rock concert. You can only last 30 minutes with unprotected ears at that level without suffering some hearing damage!

The oscillation frequencies at the angle of repose (33°) are all harmonic vibrations. If you want to know more, about that, check out my other blogs. Flames Stand up for Hallelujah Part 1 and Flames Stand up for Hallelujah Part 2