Aliens in the Barn

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Allure of Riding A Camel

Today is 12-12-12. I think that is so neat. Today is the day of twelve. To celebrate the otherwise meaningless grouping of the number 12, I wanted to post a blog entry.

Slightly after noon, around 12:12pm *wink wink*, I decided to look at some of my old journals. My parents travel a lot and one of the most amazing things they did was take my brothers and I along with them. Before I was 18 years old, I had a lifetime of memories from exotic places, experiences that I take with me to this day. Having an affinity for writing from a young age, I kept a journal for each trip they took us on.

Looking through the journals, I ran across one from our first trip to Egypt. I'm sure you're noticing that I said 'first trip.' That's a very interesting thing, actually. When we went to Egypt that first time, we thought we would never be back. Then a trip to the Mediterranean took us there again and a trip over Africa took us there yet again. All said and done, my parents have been to Egypt 6 times, with me in tow for 3 of those 6. It seems to be a hub for numerous tours throughout that region, each tour assuming no one on the tour has ever been to Egypt. So, they all go there.

I focused on the first Egypt journal, because it was 21 years ago, nearly exactly. We left on Christmas Day 1991. Since today is 12-12-12 and 21 is the inverse of 12 and the fact that it was during Christmas (note: Christmas Eve is 12 days away), I thought it would be appropriate to take out an excerpt for this 12-12-12 blog entry.

Being only 14, I was a typical teenager. Much of the journal is me talking about my new Game Boy I got for Christmas and how far along I was getting on this game and that one (Navy Seals and Tetris seemed to be my favorite). I paused for a moment as I read about how we went through New York City first and went to the World Trade Center. One of my brothers and I sat on the floor in the Trade Center lobby as we waited to get on an elevator to go to the top. I remember the World Trade Center, especially the view from the top, but I didn't remember about playing the Game Boy. I was playing Navy Seals and commented about how I beat the game and rescued the hostages. Never in a gazillion years could we have known that the World Trade Center would one day be gone.

After a few more moments of pause, I went on to the Egypt part of the trip. I was not very good at describing things back then, but there was one event that I had forgotten about that once I read it in the journal, I can picture it very well in my memory.

Egypt was having the coldest weather they'd had in over 40 years. We were at the pyramids and the wind was cutting through our clothes. Despite the cold, we were mesmerized by the different culture, the desert, and the pyramids themselves. There were numerous camel jockeys around, all of them trying to get us to ride their camels. To a 14 year old, the draw was almost too much to bear. Riding a camel suddenly sounded like the best idea anyone had ever suggested in my entire life. There is more to this story, but I will stick with my experience in order to keep this entry manageable. I thought I'd be writing something short, but it's turning into a novelette, lol.

As it turned out, riding a camel was a part of the tour. Oh my gosh, the excitement. Everyone got on their camels and off they went. My older brother, Kish, who was 18 at the time, and I were the only ones left.

As we approached the camel, it suddenly got taller, very tall, might as well have been as tall as a building, and it wasn't even on its feet yet. It made this throaty, guttural noise at us and Kish took a step back. At 18, I guess he was a little more aware of his immortality than I was. Being 14 and ready to conquer the world, I jumped right up on the camel's back. It didn't really seem so tall anymore and didn't make a fuss, so my brother prepared to climb on as well.

As soon as Kish started climbing up on the camel's back, the camel jumped straight up, throwing both of us off. The camel jockey caught me and shoved me back up onto the camel's back. Kish, however, was thrown into a complete front flip and landed on his back. As he laid, stunned, on the ground, I realized that one of my shoes fell off.

So, there we were in the middle of the desert with the pyramids in the background as our group got further away, Kish lying on the ground with the wind knocked out of him, and me on top of this insanely tall camel, my head somewhere near orbit, looking for my lost shoe. Next thing I know, the camel goes down on his front knees, nearly knocking me off again.

As soon as I was close to the ground again, I tried to jump off. The camel jockey, however, grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let me off the camel. The excitement of riding a camel was completely gone. All I wanted was to get off, trying to do just that as the jockey tried to talk my brother into getting back on. Kish wasn't about to try again, comically shaking his head at the jockey as the jockey tried to coax him to just get on the camel, that it wouldn't do that again. Kish, of course, didn't believe him.

Meanwhile, our group has completely left us. We realized this was the only way to get back to them, so we cooperated, but we were pretty scared. Somewhere in my struggle to get off and the convincing of my brother to get back on, my shoe was handed to me.

Things finally settled down and we found ourselves sitting safely on top of a walking camel and then suddenly realized that it was going in the opposite direction as our group. We started trying to tell the jockey, but he didn't seem to understand us. Then, something happened where the man left and a kid about ten years old started guiding our camel. He understood English better and turned the camel in the right direction.

As we were walking, he asked, "Want to trot?"

"La la la," I said immediately, which means, "No no no," in Arabic.

The kid then said something back and took off towards the direction the group went. That's not a trot, I thought to myself, that's a run. The camel, apparently not one wanting to be left behind, took off after him.

Now, it is hard to describe what being on a galloping camel is like. You think you will fall off with each step as you wonder if it would really matter because your spine has been so jarred and compressed that surely you'd be paralyzed before you fall off anyway. To top it off, there were numerous large rocks around that the camel didn't seem to notice or care about. I was sure he would trip on one and we'd go flying.

I didn't think about it at the time, but we were so far behind we couldn't even see our group. The kid was only trying to catch up. But, while it was happening, I was wondering what we did to the kid to deserve such torture.

Finally catching up with our group, the camel had barely come to a stop before the kid said, "Lean back, lean back." Before I could understand what he meant by that, the camel suddenly dropped to his front knees. I fell forward and Kish grabbed me before I fell face first over the camel's neck.

We finally got off of it safely and the allure of riding a camel was completely gone until 2005, when we went to Petra. I think by then that I had forgotten about my first camel experience.

But that is another story...