Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hear the sunset song...

You can meet some pretty interesting characters out in the desert. One of my favorite things about being in Dubai is the incredible diversity of backgrounds and experiences of the people we've met. For instance, who knew that Keanu Reeves has an identical twin from Afghanistan who sells carpets at the Masafi Friday Market?

Or that you could run into a falconer zipping around the sands on his ATV, hooded bird riding placidly on his gloved arm?

Last month we went with our houseguests for a "Sunset Camel Ride Tour" out in the desert. For some reason, Thomas was initally terrified to get up on his camel with me...

But I'd brought a favorite baby camel toy and carefully wedged it beneath the handlebars of Thomas' grip for him to concentrate upon. Which he fell for long enough to get us in the saddle, up in the air and for him to remember how much he actually enjoys riding. Riding a camel is easy as far as keeping your seat. The camel sways in a sort of side to side motion, and the saddles they give us are well-padded for soft Westerners.

The handlers had put Thomas and me on the oldest, most placid camel, which was nice of them. Our train of four camels, two of us on each, were led through the desert into the sun for about an hour. There was a lot of grinning going on up on the backs of those camels.

Thomas quickly got over his reticence and began whooping "WHEE!" whenever we went over any dunes. Then he started doing the "Look Mommy, riding a camel NO HANDS! Hee hee hee hee!" business. I never let go of his shirttail, he protesting, of course, and I'm sure it wouldn't have done any good had he actually started to fall. Made me feel better, though.

Past the camel ranch, where some of the camels left the herd to jog alongside the fence and give us the once-over, calling and grunting to each other,

and when some lone camels came striding on long legs across the desert towards us, our guides quickly had us dismount and chased the renegades away. I appreciated their eye for our safety, and oh darn, being down on the sand gave us more chances to get acquainted with our guides, who turned out to be Pakistanis (slightly scornful but amused: "What, you think we are Emirati? Emirati do not work, only at the airport can you see them!"), quality time with our humpetty mounts (who were mostly very sweet, as you can see) and a group photo op.

You can tell the nice-from-the-front-as-well-as-in-the-saddle camels from the maybe not-so-nice ones easily enough...the naughty ones tend to have their naughty biting spitting mouths covered. Assuming the camel driver cares if you get chomped or spat upon, of course. The knitted nose cover also keeps greedy ones from trying to graze. It must be hard...I can imagine camels have a serious urge to eat every little bit they can find.

Back up for the rest of our ride as the sun slipped lower and lower. Sneaking a camel pat. Good stuff.

Sunsets are different here, thanks to the sand that hangs in the air, we never see the sun meet the horizon. It hovers The sand in the air makes colors I've heard you can't see anywhere else. It was a real treat, a wonderful memory, to watch the sun settle with the plodding of the camels' feet below us and the swaying from side to side motion of their patient walk through the sands.

After we said good-bye to our new friends, we spent the evening enjoying desert hospitality, with whirling, lit up dancers and tons of food. The next couple of days, some sore bottoms and leg muscles from the ride. Utterly worth it.

Yes, that was a good day in the desert.


Friendly Neighborhood Librarian said...


AKBrady said...

Have the kids ever fallen asleep on a camel? I almost did just reading about it....;)

Jean said...

Aha! You finally found a falconer in the wild. Or...did you hire him to whiz by on the ATV just so you could have the photo op?

Natalie said...

Jean, actually I did (!) pay him for some photos of my niece with the falcon sitting on the ATV, but the whizzing by was all his own.

AK, we haven't yet gotten blase about camel riding to miss a single moment, but I think it must be very easy, out in the hot sun, to be swayed to sleep as you go through the Empty Quarter, though to fall off and be left behind would undoubtedly be fatal. Tough people, those Bedouins.