11 July 2018

Our Lady of the Camels (3)

From following a German woman in India to following a Mongolian woman on a monumental trek to a Dutch woman in the South Sinai ... language can be an issue. Joyce Schröder's websites and Facebook page are in Dutch, not a language I've mastered. However Schröder's website DesertJoy allows Google Translate. http://www.desertjoy.nl/. Her banner proclaims "Nomadische reizen met Hart en Ziel" (Nomadic travel with heart and soul).

Of all those who seek to "find themselves," Joyce Schröder was one of the successful ones. Originally from The Netherlands, she experienced the awe of desert life for the first time in 1995 and made it her life. She fell in love with Dalel the camel and the Bedouin people of the Muzayna tribe; this is in the south Sinai region of Egypt between the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. She has long been fluent in Arabic.

Caring for each other and bonding as the two made countless exploratory desert trips together: over time Dalel taught her [as translated] "patience, imperturbability, trust, tolerance, courage and endurance." Eventually losing him was heartbreaking. In tribute, Shröder established the Dalel Foundation for Animal Welfare, a charity: http://www.stichtingdalel.org/ (Dalel Foundation) ... "Improving the physical and psychological well-being of camels in and around Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt."

Dalel fathered Jamila, born after he died; Jamila has by now given her three males. Her family.

Many of her days are spent ministering, with the experts she finds, to rural and isolated camels. The trust she has established is evident. Her Facebook page, "Camel Wellbeing" (Stichting Dalèl - voor Kamelenwelzijn in de Sinaï), is witness to many helpful visits to ailing or needy camels. But what they face are challenges rising feed costs, little veterinary availability, and climate change (meaning a drier desert), not to mention decreased income from tourists.

That is not say she didn't have to find a way to support such a life. She now leads a variety of camel tours from her base in Dahab, from October to May, supported by and employing her Bedouin friends. The tours will take from two to ten people, and are clearly well prepared for both educating their guests and maximum comfort in the desert world. She even arranges flights from Amsterdam to Sharm el Sheik with airport pickup.

Schröder says the rhythm in camel riding is beneficial for people with low back complaints; I can personally attest that it does no harm. Camel riding sometimes has a bad rep due to short trips with badly saddled camels. Not her animals! Each participating guest has his or her own camel for the trip. Walking along the way, or part of the way, is also an option.

Thus Schröder is achieving some of her goals raising consciousness about camels in her homeland and building a means to care for them. There is no reason she can't reach a wider global market! The tours benefit the Bedouin community as well as visitors. Sad to say, the drop in tourism to Egypt in the last few years affects standard of life mostly for the already marginal, but seems to be picking up again. In my opinion, visiting the south Sinai is no more dangerous than crossing your big city downtown street.

Joyof Nature is Schröder's more recent development, running tours with a partner on the southeast coast of Turkey. They take place during the summer months that are off-season, far too hot for the Sinai; in this location "... no towering hotel resorts or mass tourism!" she reports.

When all is said and done, it's a love story.

© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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