I’ve run past them many a time and oft but today we were stopping for a ride. Camels! They are everywhere in the giant palm gardens on the outskirts of Marrakech, The Palmeraie. Lying on their sides in the sand, kneeling quietly, or walking in rows with tourists perched precariously on top.
I had made contact with Hassan the day before and negotiated a price for the three of us, John (holiday in return for painting), Alice (flatmate) and I to have an hour round the gardens at sunset. Driving there, I phoned Hassan to find out where he would be. “We are the sixth set of camels on the right after the Golf Palace,” were the instructions.
When we got there, Alice wanted the feistiest one, John was looking for speed, and I wanted the one with beautiful, blue eyes and fur that looked like someone had swirled chocolate into vanilla ice cream.
“No, no, ” said Hassan, “Watch”. He put just a little of his weight on the saddle of the kneeling beast, and it reared up and trotted off. Not for me. I got Khadija instead. She was the greediest in the herd and had a big, fat tummy and a placid disposition.
It is not a proper Palmeraie camel ride if you don’t don the appropriate robes, so the three of us put on our blue kaftans and had turbans twirled round our heads. Quickly, we were up and off and into the date palms.
Then everything became magical, and we forgot that we were being total tourists. The camels padded along noiselessly with that curious swaying gait and the sun turned from eggshell blue, to rose pink and then fiery orange. The dusk fell quickly and the palms became silhouettes against the oil painting of a sky.