Tag Archives: Camels

Camel Invasion

Camping in the desert with friends, my sons were very lucky to experience some semi-wild camels up close and personal.

The group of camels (pod? posse? flock?) moved past the campsite at close to dusk.  The animals were very interested in the children.  Some of them approached the kids, stared at them, and even played with them, nodding their big heads in time as the children ran around and jumped.

Jack watches as 'his camel' rolls in the sand.

One camel in particular seemed very interested in my youngest son, Jack.  Not only did he put his head on Jack’s head and pose behind Jack as pictures were being taken, but he also took a long ‘sand bath’ in a pit of what must have been especially comfortable dust as Jack, quite amazed, watched him.

The best part was that these animals returned through the campsite the next morning, just about at dawn.  And Jack’s camel recognized Jack, approached Jack again, and the two of them had a long stare at each other.

Back home, in Wisconsin, we hoist our backpacks and food into the trees at night to keep away the bears and we count ourselves as lucky if we see deer or moose or beaver.  To spend this kind of time with the wild animals in Oman was, I think, All Right.


Middle Eastern Easter Critters

No, the camel didn’t deliver our Easter eggs this year.

But the Easter Bunny found him to be a convenient target for some western holiday humor.  One of the jobs that falls to parents all across America, but isn’t so common here, is the hiding of easter eggs (and baskets) for easter morning.  This leads us to our Not Quite Right topic of the day: housing in the Middle East.

We live in an honest-to-goodness palace here, compared to our expectations back home.  Labor is cheap.  Building materials (except wood) are somewhat low-cost, with most houses made from concrete (crushed rock and sand), plaster, tile and copious quantities of granite and marble.  The result is a big, empty, echoing, polished, HARD house that would be cold if it weren’t for the scorching Easter temperatures now reaching toward 110F.

Easter camel.

Where do easter eggs, those multi-colored plastic containers for skittles and wrapped candy, or those more traditional dipped and dyed hard-boiled versions, like to be hidden in a house like this?

On top of camels.

Amongst the childrens’ prized rock and seashell collections.

In the draperies.

Amongst the usual nooks and crannies in furniture.

Where do they not like to be hidden?  Anywhere outside, especially if they are made of chocolate!

At the close of the day, one of my Muslim friends sent me the following text:  “Happy Easter to you all and families.”  I couldn’t say it better — or in a more perfectly, happily tolerant way — myself.

Fast Food, Souq Style

Escargot on the go in Fes, Morocco

Ahhh, nothing is more certain to turn someone’s stomach than another culture’s eating habits.  But that turn can be for the better or for the worse.

Take this nice fresh batch of snails, for instance . . . moving so fast they seem to blur! Vendors with pushcarts and boiling pots of escargot, no doubt greatly influenced by French culinary preferences, quite frequently pass through the 1700+ twisty lanes in the old walled city of Fes.  It is eye-popping to think of buying a bag of snails and snacking on them like candy.  We tried and tried to work up the courage to eat a few but there must be something deeply ingrained in the American psyche against the idea of the snail as fast food.  Neither I, my wife, or my two kids would take the leap.

On the other hand:  camel and, for that matter, goat.  We went to a somewhat famous restaurant in the same souq called Clock Cafe.  Their main attraction is the Clock Cafe Camel Burger.  Both of my sons were pro-burger, talking a big game about ordering one and eating it.  They were hungry.  They like burgers.  It was a no-brainer for them.  Yet, just below the cafe, in the street, we encountered butcher-shop row.  Here my sons (and wife) were confronted — in the sort of close proximity the souq forces on someone — with an actual camel head, freshly severed, its tongue and brains probably a delicacy.  Their stomachs rose up in rebellion and I, as dad, had to eat and describe the very good/lean/spicy taste of the camel’s processed flesh.

Vendor selling goat heads (and hearts), Fes souq.

Yet, who are we as Americans/westerners, to try to mandate an idea of ‘good food’ on the rest of the world?  How would we explain to a Moroccan, for instance, what we readily devour when we eat Chicken McNuggets or Potato Chips or Bratwurst?  How would we account for the minimum levels of acceptability for insect-particles and rat/mouse feces mandated by the FDA for many of our packaged cereals?  How about cotton-candy, fried bread, fried cheese sticks, fried ice-cream, skyrocketing levels of salt?

Mind you, traveling carts of escargot are certainly well within the limits of Not Quite Right.  But so too, when I return to America, I hope to think of dear old Coca-Cola (with acid levels high enough to dissolve gristle off a hambone) in the same category of disgusting gustation.

Camel Crossing

Roadsign near Ras al-Had, Sur, Oman.

I come from a part of America where hitting deer is a real problem.  I’ve struck several myself, including two at once.  The Wisconsin roads are littered with dead bambis.

Other places, like Alaska and Minnesota, have a bigger problem on their hands when moose wander out from the forests.

But nothing back home tops a camel for sheer bulk and destructive power.  The camel is doubly dangerous compared to normal roadkill because a car (unless its a Fiat or an MG and slips clean beneath the swaying belly) will make contact with the animal right square on the front windshield, sheering it off.

And, be careful, they spit.