The Secret Oasis
I have lived here for two months and never suspected it existed. Al Asad has an Oasis. It is on the opposite end of the base from Ripper in a little depression and not easily spotted. According to local legend, the patriarch Abraham camped here on his way from Mesopotamia to the Holy Land. It is not the most direct route, but maybe he was lost.
There is reed fringed pond with crystal clear water coming out of an underground spring. The water is as transparent as liquid air and it is hard to tell where one world stops and the other starts. As you can see in the photo, it is full of little fish. They almost look like they are floating air. There are about 30 acres of date palms surrounding the spring. Our agriculture guy Dennis says some of the trees are around sixty years old. The younger ones are probably around fifteen years old. The whole grove is in need of renovation. Date palms can regenerate naturally, but they are not very good at it. Under natural conditions, there would not be so many date palms here. Once established, the palm roots can reach the moist earth several feet down, but they would not establish themselves on the dry surface.
I understand that when they built the Al Asad base during the Saddam time, they kicked out the families who were living here about. Incongruously a few managed to hold on, ignored, living in the oasis. When the Al Asad base expanded in 1995, they got kicked out and their homes were demolished. It must have been sad to leave such an idyllic spot. I can imagine how it must have been when it was well tended. There would have been gardens of vegetables and citrus. There also were certainly sheep and goats, probably a donkey. But the families had to move off. We can see the ruins of their houses. That piece of history explains why the youngest trees are around fifteen years old. The oasis was neglected and abused since the time they left. I am afraid that we Americans have not been any better stewards than the Iraqi had been. It could be cleaned up and restored with a reasonable investment in time and money. Maybe I can help that happen.
As I walked around the oasis, I let my mind wander and imagine how it was when Abraham stopped by. The oasis is quieter than most of the base, since it is far from the main roads or the landing areas and it is somewhat protected by earth banks. I was shocked out of my reverie by MiGs. Yes, MiGs or maybe Mirage. I don’t know. We saw the wreckage of two. One had evidently crashed. The nose was crushed. The other seems to have just been abandoned. It was stripped, but it looked like it had been intact before that. There are lots of MiGs around here; I have seen dozens just haphazardly littering the desert. Saddam paid billions for these things, enriching Soviet & French arms merchants, but they never did him any good. They were no match for American forces. Everybody knew that, the pilots most acutely. That is why there are so many expensive air assets scattered around the desert. I guess it is fun to fly a warplane when there is no war, especially if that does not imply that you have to fly if anybody might be shooting at you.
Above is our Ag guy Dennis in front of the little pond.I will certainly go back to this oasis. Unfortunately, it is a little outside running range from Ripper so it won’t be every day. But now I know where to go where when I want a little natural peace.