Things i saw on my camel on the west bank in luxor


Egypt, luxor

Think camel ride and you might imagine Giza Desert rather than roads and villages.  The final homerun of my ride had me riding 3 metres high on the roads amongst shops and people having tea and shisha. I stuck out, literally. But i was determined to ‘have a camel’, and the ride offered quite a perspective. The west bank is a world away from luxor’s town centre.

The sun slid its orange magic over the cane plantations, over the dust, over the boy guide’s thoughtful face. I was curious but his vocabulary was small. Ahead of me, the plump boy leading my friend’s horse was chatty, ebullient.

The odd house along the way with gorgeous blues and wrought gates. Do Egyptians live here? “No, these are hotels”, said the boy guide.

Kids screaming hello. Height makes you feel ridiculous waving down at them; save a special smile for the curious girl staring.

Women in black sit in groups on thresholds. I realise i haven’t spoken to any women in egypt, unless you count hotel receptionists, and the lovely lady at Habiba’s. Men typically front the shops.

We stopped for a drink at a ‘coffeeshop’, and a rather intimate look into the owner’s life. I couldn’t make out any possessions in his little brick hut, but out of nowhere he brought out pictures of a relative’s visit from germany. Excitement and pride written in his face as he pointed out friend, son, daughter, time. He beamed at our questions. He ran after me waving my sunglasses i had forgotten. He ran after us wishing us well, opening his arms to us to his ‘coffeeshop’ anytime. I wish we could have stayed longer, but my friend seemed the wiser: just for a moment, and leave. The interaction is limited, after all.

When was the last time i sat on an animal. My butt and thighs got pretty sore by the end of two hours, but i clung on. Always aware of warmth, hair, musculature moving. A steady predictable, if odd, rhythm. This camel could run and buck and possibly kill me. But it didn’t.  Trust when you don’t understand is exhilarating at best, and intoxicating when you’re deep enough in it. I thought of my travel buddy, and the people i’d engaged with along the way. How much do we trust? But still we go ahead with transactions even without full trust. We must.

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A quick snap before the camel tipped me over.

Tip your guide well, mine was a lean boy who asked only the essential (age, marital status). Attentive enough to see i was having trouble balancing water bottle, camera and camel: he carried my water the entire way, checking regularly if i was thirsty. And so gentle he didn’t confront me about my pitiful tip (quite uncharacteristic); the stable owner let me know it should be EGP 2-4 for his 2 hours.

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