|Photograph by BDM, October 2007|
Now that I have the hang of the tour business, I know I can weasel a minimum half-day camel ride by choosing the right time and place. Notwithstanding an obsessive-compulsive tour leader. Tours have a certain-shall we say-conformity. The spirit of adventure applies to reasonable defiance in the face of regimentation ... and the best companies are flexible.
In a list of attractive no-escorted-tour opportunities, Timbuktu gives you the complete and unabridged Sahara but I hear the outlaws have a nasty habit of kidnapping foreigners. Libya offers (i.e. offered) a desert oasis where you can stay for days in modest comfort and ride from sunrise to sunset.
Would you believe Texas has at least one camel enterprise? I do my research. With respect, Texas lacks cachet in the exotic department, although I could bring my cowboy boots. On second thought, Doug actually takes people into the Sinai and has deep contacts there.
But my preference is for camel countries + Bedouin. It’s been over a year and the restlessness grows. The trip to Syria—aaahh, a full day on the majestic animal among the glorious Palmyra ruins—was cancelled for sadly understandable reasons.
|Mazayina Al Dahfra 2010, http://aldhafrafestival.ae/?Lang=EN|
At Beidha near Petra is a camp with day trips on camels but let’s be real here, it’s for young people who can sleep on the ground all night and still stand up uncrippled in the morning. On the other end of the scale are the stunningly expensive Abu Dhabi luxury versions in the Liwa desert. Sinai resorts sound grossly over-commercialized. Iraq is still rather scary.
While I wait for Syria to settle down, it’s tempting to plan a solo trip. Oman has the lure of The Empty Quarter desert. Israel has the Negev desert with the plus of a near-relative living in Jerusalem and a minus for a camel farm with extremely spartan (the aching back again) vegetarian overnight quarters. Wadi Rum in Jordan is burnt into my psyche, having visited twice and loved it. Lack of Arabic and nuances of the language, without a reliable and fluent interpreter, would be like an egg without salt.
Verdict on hold as political events unfold. One more nostalgic review up my sleeve. Then, ... what would Gertrude Bell do? Need I ask. I leave you, temporarily, with this pithy Arabic proverb:
“On the first of March, the crows begin to search.”
 “Wind of Change Speech,” About.com: African History (http://africanhistory.about.com/od/eraindependence/a/wind_of_change1.htm : accessed 31 March 2011); British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to South African Parliament, 3 February 1960.