Beauty All Around Us

Grape vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley

Grape vineyards in the San Joaquin Valley

By Wael Abdelgawad |

Every Saturday I drive from Fresno, in the geographical center of California, across the western side of the San Joaquin Valley and up into the mountains, to Casa de Fruta. It is such beautiful country, SubhanAllah. The San Joaquin Valley is a part of California’s great Central Valley, a vast agricultural breadbasket that runs 450 miles (720 km) from north to south.

Right now in March, the fields are on fire with orange poppies and yellow mustard flowers. The almond trees have been blossoming for a month, and the white petals fall to the ground like rain. On my way home, I sometimes pull over and park under the almond trees. I have a snack, listen to the radio, then get out and practice martial arts moves beneath the trees. When the irrigation pumps are running I use the water to wash my face or perform wudu’.

The grapes are just coming up – the slender stems are like the idea of a grape vine. Corn, cotton and lettuce are newly planted, and birds with long white necks flock to the fields. The fields are full of huge herds of white sheep and black cows, and our unique local cows with a large white stripe down the middle.

The green grass sweeps up into the mountains, where it becomes forest and finally snow.

The years-long drought is over. The San Luis Reservoir is setting a new high water mark. It is normally full of islands, but now they have all disappeared as the water is a solid sheet of deep blue from one side to the other, with fingers of water stretching into surrounding valleys. I’ve never seen it so high. The Eastside Bypass, which is a flood control channel and is normally dry as dust, is running with water.

The San Joaquin River is running to the Pacific Ocean for the first time in decades. In coming years the Chinook salmon may return to the river, Insha’Allah. This is a type of fish that swims upriver from the sea. There has not been a Chinook run on the San Joaquin River since the 1940’s.

The skies in this part of the Valley are huge, with vast expanses of clouds sweeping the sky like ships. Late in the day, the sky is a giant palette of blue, yellow, orange and red.

The world is amazing. Never think that beauty is gone from the world. Open your eyes and look at the majesty around you. All this was not created in vain. It is a miracle, a blessing, and a sign pointing to the Most Merciful God.

SubhanAllah, glory to Allah The Provider, The Creator, The One.

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Article by Wael

Wael Abdelgawad is an Egyptian-American living in Fresno, California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including and, and also of various technology and travel websites. He is a writer and poet, and has been a web developer since 1997. This project,, is very dear to his heart, as it has allowed him to express ideas that have growing inside him for many years. Wael is divorced and has one lovely young daughter. He practices and teaches martial arts (somewhat obsessively), and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and vanilla fudge ice cream. Wael is an advocate for human rights and blogs about these issues at He is also a volunteer with the MyDeen Muslim youth organization in Fresno. Wael tagged this post with: , , , , , , , , , , , Read 266 articles by
11 Comments Post a Comment
  1. SisterZ says:

    Absolutely amazingly beautiful photos. The grapevine yards are so deep in colour and I’ve never seen cotton grow like that. SubhaanAllah, Allah is the best of Artists too.

    • wael says:

      After the cotton harvest the leftover cotton litters the sides of the highway. I also have to give credit to the workers, almost all of them migrants from Mexico, who work the fields here in California. Here’s a poignant description of cotton picking by someone from eHow:

      Picking cotton is not your everyday type of work, nor is it the type of work that you would choose to do. As a family, back when I was growing up, it was a necessity. Although my dad made good money working on the railroad, our family grew exponentially, or so it seemed, we ended up with seven of us kids. We decided we would pick cotton by going out to the fields with a group of other cotton pickers. Pick cotton we did, and how. Between four of us we could pick a ton by noon, automatically like we were machines. I remember the only other people that could take us on were the Latinos who would pick two rows at a time. Mind you these are mile long rows and the temperature can get upwards of 110 degrees in the shade. We would pack our lunches overnight and head out every morning with a crew of some 20-30 other cotton pickers and leave our house around 3:00 a.m. We would arrive at the field around 5:00 am. and would work until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. everyday during the summer, weekends, to include all holidays. I relished going to school because that was the only break I ever got. Now, to pick cotton you must have a cotton sack with a strap around your shoulder that is at least 20 feet long. Into it and in a bent over posture you pluck the cotton that has blossomed out, as many a each hand can carry, and toss it into the cotton sack.You have to wear good gloves, leather if you can afford it, so that the dried bristles off the plant do not cut your fingers and wrists. I still have the scars on my wrists from lousy gloves. Although this sounds like a “Grapes of Wrath” lament, it is not. It is a story of grit and determination for a poor family who had to supplement its income in order to put food on the table and new clothes on our backs, instead of hand-me-downs. It will forever be emblazoned in my brain all the money we would count on the kitchen table as a family prior to turning in at 7:00 p. m. to get our rest before the next marathon of work the next day. I remember it vividly because we learned the value of the dollar, but more importantly, it kept our family together and strong as one. Our love and faith in each other never faltered.

  2. SisterZ says:

    Sounds similar to Palestinians picking olives…

    • wael says:

      I never thought about that…

      I’ve never had to work quite that hard. But I did work for a pesticide control company when I was 17. I traversed the orange groves, hanging traps and collecting others. I remember doing it in Ramadan, when the temperature was over 110, and the irrigation water in the ditches looked good to me. Later, when I was 20 or so, I worked for the United States Geological Survey, measuring water levels throughout the valley. It was hot, lonely work, riding my motorcycle from one vast corporate farm to another, using maps and slogging through the mud, using a chain link ladder to climb down into the sumps where the water was pouring and frothing, and taking samples. Then I’d take the samples back to the USGS trailer and test for various chemicals. It paid well, but was hard and lonely work.

      • SisterZ says:

        Hard work is good for the soul my dear. It gives one a deeper insight into life and makes us appreciate the world we live in that much more :).

  3. María M says:

    Hard work, support the family, tight ties in the family, …good roots.

  4. Muhammad1982 says:

    Masha Allah, Great scenery and good skills Brother Wael. I can’t even pick one picture to say that’s the most beautiful picture. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Shireen says:

    Wow.. makes you think mashaAllah…. “Which of the favors of your Lord will thee deny?” ….. SubhanAllah! … Provision is vast, but only by the Permission of our Lord!

  6. Megan says:

    Do you mind sharing what city that cotton field is in?? It is so gorgeous!! Would love to visit!!

    • Wael says:

      Really? I never thought of a cotton field as being all that beautiful, lol. Though I do think there’s a certain beauty to the harvested cotton bales. Cotton is planted throughout the San Joaquin Valley. In late summer you’ll find many cotton fields along highway 152 between Chowchilla and Los Banos, for example. The cotton reaches its highest by the end of September, and harvesting usually begins on October 1st.

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