Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tea with the Bedouins and Camels on the Sides of Roads

 "From the desert I come to thee on a stallion shod with fire."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

All my life I'd wanted to see the Rub al Khali, the Empty Quarter, the massive barren wasteland of southern Saudi Arabia north of Yemen and Oman. 
 "And the wins are left behind in the speed of my desire."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

It is considered one of the most barren and deadly places in the world, incapable of supporting life, with temperatures reaching upwards of 145F degrees.  Without water or proper supplies, one could die within minutes. 
 "Under they window I stand, and the midnight hears my cry."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

So naturally, I couldn't wait to try my luck at going there.
 "Look from they window and see my passion and my pain."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

It was difficult to meet Bedouins, those wandering nomadic tribesman who knew the mysteries of the Rub al Khali... until I learned their secret.  You have to follow the camels home.
 "I lie on the sands below and I faint in thy disdain."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

But where do you find camels in Saudi Arabia?  Oh... they're everywhere.  In fact, it's one of the first Saudi rules you learn.  Never drive at night, because there are no street lights and camels walk along the highway. 
 "Let the night-winds touch thy brow with the heat of my burning sigh."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

Yelping insufferable beasts, really... Mark Twain notes in his Innocents Abroad how he witnessed a camel tear the sports jacket off a fellow passenger and proceed to devour it raw. 
 "And melt thee to hear the vow of a love that shall not die."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

But if you follow a camel into the desert, you eventually come to the young boy who waters and feeds them, and if you smile nicely, he might just let you sit in his tent and drink his cold sugar tea from a thermus, which is exactly what happened to me.
 "My Steps are nightly driven by the fever in my breast."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

Of course, to get to this tent, we had to ride in his 4X4 Toyota jeep out across the dunes.  Rolling mounds of burning loose earth that never seemed settled, never seemed to horizon, and swallowed the tracks behind us as if we were never there.
 "Open the door of thy heart and open they chamber door."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

The boys would talk and I would sit, looking out across the empty earth.  Sometimes we would come to the burned out husk of a goat roasted months before or a small cliff uncovered by the ever shifting and shapeless sands.  That's when we all would laugh, sharing this language of the human race.  Nod toward the perils of living and drive away.
"Till the sun grows cold, and the stars are old, and the leaves of the Judgment Book unfold."  -Bedouin Love Song, Bayard Taylor

They never let me get too close.  Perhaps they thought I was a bigger danger than the desert itself.  Little did they realize, I was the one trusting strangers with my life.

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