I last rode a camel exactly four years ago at the annual camel fair in Pushkar, India. There, farmers and traders convened with
approximately 20,000 camels — and a vast number of a horses, cows, goats, and sheep — to buy and sell their majestic animals. Thousands of people mulled around tents eating and singing songs and ambitious gamblers and took part in camel races. The camels were lavishly decorated and it was overall a very merry and boisterous festival that I found greatly entertaining.
On this go-round, I hopped aboard a one-humped camel (in India I was on a two-humper) on the outskirts of the Sahara desert in Morocco with only miles of sand and cacti ahead. I began by imagining I was royalty, crossing the desert in the 1400s in search of fine purple silks. After ten minutes, however, I grew bored of the slow trotting vehicle and understood why queens actually avoided the rides themselves and sent servants to bring back gold and spices. I now understand first hand how the lethargic transport system was enough to inspire King Henry of Portugal to search for alternate routes to India in 1488. He simply couldn’t collect enough exotic teas in his lifetime if he relied on camels. The Cape of Good Hope had to be discovered! Plus, camels are also not cheap. Our Berber guide told us one camel is around 1 million dirham, or $118,000. I’d rather buy a motorbike (though, not one made in Morocco. I’m going to need a German model).
All these thoughts occupied my mind on the journey. I was happy when the ride came to an end after an hour and we could camp out in the conveniently luxurious tents that had been so nicely set up for us. We ate dinner and our Berber guides started a fire and sang songs while we lay in the sand and made wishes on at least 50 shooting stars. I was plum out of things to ask for by the end.
The next morning we awoke to the most stunning sunrise I had ever seen. Light blazed over endless dunes with wave patterns adorning the surface. I dropped down and wiggled around in the cold sand and enjoyed every grain before hopping back on the camel for my return, quiet journey into the sunrise. Who knew there could still be so many different worldly experiences with the camel these days?