A few years ago, my son and I traveled across the Sinai Peninsula from Alexandria, Egypt to the coast of the Red Sea. The feat was accomplished by riding an Egyptian bus for a period of about 8 hours. At the time the temperature was 130 degrees Fahrenheit and I was feeling every ray from the beating sun. As we bumped along, the bus began to fail, eventually stopping in the middle of the road. Of course, that meant no air conditioning and I freaked. My son tried his best to console me by instructing me to relax, but I was petrified. Fortunately, after thirty minutes passed we were once again back on the road and the slight comfort of the cooler air was back with us.
After a bus ride from hell, we ended up at a seaside resort with a room that sported a hefty fan. We were forced to stay inside until late in the day when the sun went down, for nobody could face the intense heat at the beach. Once we were able to go out, we noticed a young boy with a camel. He was making money by allowing folks to take photos of his furry companion. Without too much thought we scurried up to the lad and took several photos. As I stood there in the evening breeze, it occurred to me that I should take the camel for a jaunt down the beach.
Ever so politely, I approached the boy and asked if he would let me sit on the camel. He agreed and coaxed the animal to his knees, eventually persuading him to greet the ground in a relaxed manner. Next, the boy motioned for me to get on. After doing so I asked if I could hold the lead rope that was attached to his halter. Once again, the young boy agreed and slipped the rope into my hands. I instantly made a faint noise with my mouth and nudged the camel with my legs until he rose to his feet. At this point I felt empowered and in complete control. Unable to communicate in the boy’s native tongue, I tried to ask him if I could take the camel for a short stroll down the beach. Perhaps my desires got the better of me, but I actually believed he said ok.
Without much thought, I turned the camel around, kicked him with both my heels and we were off running down the beach at a pretty fast clip. I’m telling you, I was set free and it was only the two of us racing with the wind. Later my son would tell me about the boy and his pointless screaming as I took off. Scarcely able to contain my delight, I shouted, “Hey Mecca, here I come.” The ride came to a sudden stop, as I pulled the animal up short in effort to control his head. It worked, and the beast planted his hooves into the sand. Imagining that I really could look across the water and see Mecca, I sat motionless for a few minutes. After all, it seemed only proper to pay respects to Saudi Arabia.
For me to come to terms with what I had just done, a sharp turnaround was in order. In effort to hide all concerns, I headed back to where I came from in a slow and gathered trot. The camel was particularly well-behaved and I performed as though I knew exactly what I was doing. Once I had caught up to the young man, I threw my leg over the camel’s back and slid off. Needless to say, the boy was extremely angry and made sure I knew it. In response, I tried my best to explain that I had ridden horses all my life and I knew what I was doing. My words were ignored and the two quietly walked away. Feeling somewhat ashamed, I returned to my son and simply said, “Well, did you get any photos?”