27 June 2014

Petra, Jordan 2008

2008 was a banner year for perfect camel riding. A half day on our own in this ancient Nabatean World Heritage site, my travel buddy begins her walk back along the main trail. The plan is for her to perch somewhere along the way and photograph me as I ride gloriously by. I give her some time to get settled in advance.

Then I haggle for a camel. A few camel rides under my belt and trekking Petra trails for the third time gives me confidence. Some German tourists are pondering the same thing. A woman about to mount says she paid (Jordanian dollars) $JD25 for a camel, way too much, and heard me starting at $JD10. She starts yelling nastily at me I shouldn’t do it for less than $JD25. The camel owners are enjoying their unexpected advocate. Because of her I have to settle for $JD20 which is more than par, wounding my hard-earned bargaining skills.
Zsou Zsou greets me
Nevertheless, I choose a large camel named Zou-Zou for her height. Like me, she shows a bit of age. Unlike me, she does not look excited about going for a walk. However, she does not snuffle or bawl which could portend well for her character. Her handler Mahmoud starts out walking behind us, or so I think. What I am really thinking is that Mahmoud recognizes an experienced rider. For example, I know the back end goes up first. A few people on donkeys are way below me. They have a boy more or less herding them.

I’m trying to take photos as I go. Capture the Bedouin women selling trinkets. It’s tricky juggling a camera since one hand is often on the pommel grip—a certain relentless, swaying, circular motion is involved (not appealing to everyone, but it’s a big part of the whole mystique). Not much later I notice Mahmoud is no longer with us. 

Boy tending donkeys doesn’t respond to sign language about whether he might be in charge of me. Evidently not. I become fully aware of this when Zou-Zou ploughs right into a gaggle of tourists before we round the first bend. Maybe she is blind? The rope in my hand is connected to her primitive halter that seems to have no possible steering effect. Therefore I must put my camera away and be alert for pedestrians. Her pace increases. 

Zou-Zou my runaway camel and I spend twenty-five minutes on our own, scattering many people and knocking over vendor displays. Maybe her urgency indicates hunger and she’s heading for the barn? In my limited experience this is not a usual camel. Nonetheless, one is above one’s surroundings and the show must go on in dignified fashion. Concentrating on the job at hand, I can’t frequently admire the amazing, towering cliffs and colours, but then I did get photographs last year. 
Zou-Zou breaks into a canter at one point — what absolutely great fun! Lawrence couldn’t have had it any better! Wouldn’t you know, this happens just about the time we pass my travel buddy and a few of our tour group. They are sipping tea at a rest stop, mostly too stunned (I like to think jaw-droppingly impressed) to photograph me. No time for designated photographer to lift her camera. I hardly see them, as I am exuberantly shouting “Watch out! Achtung! Camel coming through!”
Only one swift fellow with a camera catches me disappearing ... gaily trying to wave my hat at them. 

As we reach the Siq, it comes to an end. Mahmoud, of course, is nowhere in sight. Zou-Zou slows to a halt in recognition as an appointed boy comes to intercept. He seems surprised to hear that we knocked over postcard stands and wants to know if the vendors are angry. How would I know? My arthritic neck seldom permits posterior viewing of collateral damage, especially on the fly. For part of the $JD20 it must be his luckless job to mollify any business repercussions. 

Zou-Zou will go to wait at the camel station for another tourist. She shows no regret at my dismounting. They say camels do have distinctive personalities but I need more evidence.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

BDM said...

On the original post:
Steve said...
I just had my annual physical exam and was given a clean bill of health but, still, I think I'm going to die laughing! This was a wonderful tale, Brenda!

Tuesday, 06 October, 2009