Thursday, February 01, 2007

Me & My Camel

I had drinks with Bob last night, and he gave me endless tips on what to see and do in Paris. I think I'm already in love with the city, and I haven't even seen it yet. Funny how the it wasn't even on my radar until about a year ago, and now I can hardly wait to visit.

The trip is shaping up nicely. I found a cheap hotel in the 10e Arrondissement - the Hotel Jarry at 35 euro a night! It's an immigrant neighborhood south of the Gare de l'Est, totally outside of every tourist map I've found, yet walking distance from the Marais and the Champs Elysees. And I don't care that it's ghetto; it's still Paris in Spring. I don't have much of an agenda beyond wandering a lot, seeing the Louvre, Versailles, and the Picasso Museum (thanks to Bob for that rec) - and eating lots of cheese.

From Paris it's off to Amman. I haven't bought tickets for this leg yet, but the prices look pretty stable. I'll do three nights in Amman, three
exploring Petra, and then it's off to Wadi Rum for a three night camel trek! This is the part that excites me the most. I've been talking to a Bedouin guide online, Aodeh Abdullah al Zlapeh (left). I'll meet him Monday morning on April 2, we'll plot a course, he'll introduce me to my camel, and then we head out into the desert. I've been chatting with a Kiwi who might come along, but otherwise it's just me, the Bedouin, and our camels.

Of course, I've never actually touched a camel - muc
h less cared for one for three days. Everything I know about camels I learned from watching The Amazing Race - so my knowledge is limited, though I think I'm ready. I found this online, which I figure is a good enough start ...

Camels, if well treated, are more inquisitive and affectionate

Camels are quieter and gentler than horses.

Situations that could panic a horse will scarcely cause any concern for a camel. If a horse gets really spooked, it could bolt and run off. Camels will rarely act in such an insensible manner. However, camels will sometimes buck, for no other reason than sheer exuberance.

Camels seem smarter than horses about getting themselves out of a precarious situation. If a horse gets tangled up in a rope, it may struggle violently and get rope burns (or worse). A tangled up camel will, after briefly testing the bonds, sit quietly and figure out what to do next.

Camels can carry more weight than horses.

Riding a camel is quiet and peaceful (that is, once the camel is well trained enough that it no longer grumbles along the way). Camel's slipper-like feet make hardly any noise. Without the clip-clop of hooves, you can hear the wind sighing in
the brush, the rustle of autumn leaves, a coyote howl in the distance on a moonlight ride.

Camels' minds seem to be more complicated and interesting than horses'. Of course, this can be a disadvantage as well!

Horses have a lighter touch and are more responsive to cues than camels. This is because they are in general more reactive and sensitive.

Horses are more sure-footed than camels.

Horses have more impulsion than camels. They are more willing to move out. Camels are by nature barn-sour and herd-sour. One of the biggest challenges in camel training is in getting them to leave home or to leave the herd. Even a well-trained lead camel may need to be led out of the yard before mounting. Camels tend to be more "mulish" or "donkey-like" than horse-like in their responses.

Camels seem to take mistreatment more personally than horses do.
Yeah, that seems like my kind of critter.

After that, it's off for a weekend of R&R in İstanbul. I'm returning to the Hotel Eklektik Galata, in the heart the modern cultural district. This time, I'll be a man with an agenda. I won't leave until I've had a bath at the Çemberlitaş Hamamı (left, designed by Mimar Sinan, one of history's greatest architects, in 1584), tour the Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, and shop until I'm broke at the Kapalı Çarsisi (right, started in 1464 and one of the largest covered markets in the world). And if I still have energy (as if I won't), I'll hit the clubs and dance the night away to Sufi and Turkish house.

Easter night I'll watch the sunset over Sultanahmet, and then prep for the long flight home.

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