Before we left for Egypt last month Neill had stated, quite categorically, that he would not be riding a camel any time soon. When we arrived however, to my surprise, he happily agreed to a camel ride into the Sinai Desert.
Even with the camels sitting down, when you are only 5 foot tall, as I am, it is quite a task to hoist your leg over and then pull yourself up into the saddle. Neill is only a little taller than me so it was with some amusement that, having donned the obligatory head scarfs, I watched a young girl push Neill’s bottom aloft as another of the Bedouins pulled him on to his camel.
Then it was my turn! As I looked around for someone to give me a push or a pull or better still a step-ladder, no one came to my aid. I eventually managed to haul myself unassisted onto the beast’s back, in what can only be described as a most undignified manner. As I held on tight knowing what was about to come, the camel threw me first forward, as it stood up on its back legs, and then backwards, as it stood up at the front.
Then we were off! While my camel riding companions looked serene and relaxed, I felt anything but! As we plodded along I’ll admit I did briefly wonder how much it would hurt if I were to fall off. I also considered what I might break. Myself? Or worse still, my camera!
When we reached the Bedouin camp, the camels kindly lowered themselves down (with a lunge forward, followed by a lurch back) so we could climb down (phew!).
As it worked out Neill actually went on a camel ride again a few days later. He loved it! Whereas I felt the experience was something that should be done the once but I didn’t feel any great desire to repeat it again quite so quickly.
Back at the Bedouin camp next on the agenda was climbing a mountain. “I beg your pardon! ”
In reality it was more of a walk, with the occasional scramble, rather than a climb and not that bad at all. At the top the view was wonderful and we watched as the sun began to set. A glorious spot to sit and enjoy a quiet moment.
We had to walk back before the light was completely gone which was a shame but understandable. By the time we were down the sky almost looked as if it were on fire – a spectacular start to our evening with the Bedouins.
Photographs 2 and 5 by Neill Bristow
Girls Rights amongst the Bedouins of the Sinai Desert by Kathryn Burrington
Inside the Bedouin’s secret garden by Ed Douglas
Dining with Bedouins in the Sinai Desert by Kathryn Burrington