When our tour guide asked whether anyone in our group preferred a truck trek in lieu of the planned camel tour, I said: “We came for the camels!” I was so excited I dubbed it “Hump Day,” but the camels didn’t seem as happy. The memory of their grumbling still makes me smile hysterically.
The handlers made interesting noises as well. They urged the camels forward with an odd kiss/whistle, and when a rider wanted the camel to kneel, he made a gagging sound.
The toughest part of the ride, I was told, is in leaning back and holding tight for lift off. It’s a long, jolty way up. Mom didn’t seem concerned, but…
Mahmoud, her camel guy, was also doubtful. He got the okay to break the ONE PERSON PER CAMEL rule, climbed on in front of Mom, and put her arms around his waist. Sure enough, Mom stuck her saddle like the cowgirl she is.
Having Mahmoud on our level, instead of walking behind like the other handlers, was great. He spoke English well, and we had lots of questions.
Me: Do camels like to be petted? (I wanted to do all I could to keep Rambo on my side.)
Mahmoud: Too much.
Me: Why are the rocks lined up across the desert?
Mahmoud: When a man wants to build a house, he puts rocks out to let others know the land is his.
Mom: How many wives do you have?
Mahmoud: I have freedom. (Big smile.)
When we reached the ancient Coptic monastery we’d come to tour, we found a lot of crumbling stairs to climb in the heat. Still, when our leader asked if Mom wanted to ride her camel back to the boat, she said “well sure!” She got applause from the group.
That’s when things took an uneasy turn. We greenhorns walked down a steep-ish hill to our camels, but since Mom was riding with a pro, they rode it, and I lost sight of them. At the meeting place, I still didn’t see her.
Me:“Where’s Mom? Did he carry her off into the desert?”
Robert from New York State: “She’s in a harem now.”
Mahmoud showed up shortly after. He’d delivered Mom to our tour boat on the Nile and wondered if I had a tip for him. I knew Mom had been prepared with tip money. He agreed that Mom had tipped him, but he thought I might have a special appreciation for him as well.
I did: “You did an excellent job! Thank you very much!”
That’s probably what the camels were grumbling about. Everyone else gets tips.