It seemed rather harsh to see the camels with their legs tied together at the overnight camp; I’m not sure if they have to do this to stop them wandering off in the vastness of the real desert, but our guides clearly regarded it as essential for their business, much closer to civilisation.
We had arrived in a clearing not far from the ocean, with two large, traditionally decorated tents, though no toilet facilities were visible, except for many bushes and small trees. We’re so spoilt in our so-called ‘civilised’ countries that we’ve almost forgotten how to crap in the woods, unless told how to do it on TV by a survival expert.
It was already approaching a glorious sunset over the Atlantic; and judging by the wonderful cooking smells our evening meal would not be far off. We exchanged a few polite words with our fellow travellers – a family from Staffordshire, and a couple of Australian nurses working in London. There hadn’t been a great deal of opportunity for conversation during the day as the camel train was strung out in a long line, but now we were obliged to make some superficial remarks.
We’d probably have to share one tent with the Aussie girls, while the other was occupied by the family of four; this made me slightly nervous because Jess was always complaining about my snoring. I could only hope that the long and uncomfortable day in the ‘saddle’ would mean that we all enjoyed a deep sleep of happy and exotic dreams.
‘I’m starving’ said Jess.
‘Me too. It shouldn’t be long.’
‘Looks like they’ve actually got some wine’ said one of the Aussies.
‘Different rules for tourists’ the other added.
I couldn’t help noticing they were both attractive women, probably in their mid-twenties, however both were smokers, which was a real turn-off for me – though it does keep the insects at bay. We hadn’t experienced any problems with mosquitoes or other creepy-crawlies, only the odd lizard disappearing rapidly over a wall.
It was no surprise to be presented with two large tagines of steaming food – one chicken and one vegetarian, along with some freshly baked flat bread, and some fruity local wine as an aid to digestion and means of blurring the edges of reality a little. We were excited that one of the guides had promised some magic tricks would follow the meal, which would perhaps include one of the colourful carpets we sat on taking a short flight around the dunes.
‘Nice red’ observed Jess.
‘It always tastes better with good food, and particularly in an environment like this.’
‘You almost sound like a wine expert.’
‘Very funny, you well know that I’m only interested in getting pissed.’
‘So long as you don’t offend the locals.’
‘Sadly, I don’t think there are enough bottles for that.’
It was properly dark as the food was cleared away, and the lantern light flickered on the gently billowing tent walls. Occasionally, a camel could be heard complaining in the distance, or the fire spitting sparks into the clear night sky of countless stars. The magic act began, and the effect of alcohol made the adults unsure of where reality began and ended, while the two young kids of the English family stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed as the cheerful guide performed his well-polished sleight of hand.