Howard in Berber Turban
Essauouira, near Atlantic Ocean
Heading to the Ocean, Essauouira
Lunch before our camel ride was at a small inn near the beach and offered a delicious tagine of vegetables and mint tea. Howard had purchased a turban head wrap in the old city market of Essaouira, and at lunch, Mustapha tied it into a traditional Berber turban. I was amazed when afterwards, we walked outside to find the camels in the yard waiting for us as I had assumed we would go to the farm where they lived. We climbed aboard and headed to the ocean. Howard wore his turban to keep out the sun, wind and sand.
On the Atlantic coast south of Essaouira, we went for a camel ride one afternoon. The ride took us for hours along a desolate stretch of beach. It was a sunny but cool and windy day, with big rollers breaking just off the shore. I rode the lead camel, a big feisty guy who clearly was the boss of the caravan. We were the only ones on the beach that day until a couple hours into the ride when we came across a group of young camels. Hassan, the young Moroccan guiding us, explained that the camels were owned (not abandoned) and allowed to roam free in this remote area. The youngsters were curious or territorial or both, we weren’t sure which, about our group and approached us. My guy started to get riled up to fend them off. But before things got too exciting, Hassan yelled away the intruders.
Hassan guided the camels with a quiet voice and light taps from a stick. He sometimes led them by the halter. They listened intently to each word and sound, pricking up their ears. And they listened for hours as we traveled until sunset. When the ride ended, the camels lay down to let us off. Then, Hassan untied each one and let them free to walk home on their own, with him following.
I was struck by the close bond between Hassan and his camels and how they worked together. I was also struck by the intelligence and quirky personalities of the camels, and how well Hassan knew them in order to guide them so quietly and gently. I was also struck by just how big those guys were! Definitely a highlight of our trip.
Credit for the camel ride photos goes to Mustafa, our guide, who recorded the journey for us on our camera.