Riding a camel in Egypt
Riding a camel in Egypt
Camel treks are a popular activity in Egypt, but sometimes they offer more adventure than you bargained for.

I knew it from the moment we had booked the holiday. We were going on a camel trek. My husband had been desperate to do this as soon as we had set foot in Egypt. I had cunningly managed to avoid it, day after day, finding countless other things to do (you know, what people normally do in Egypt – visiting Luxor’s wondrous temples, travelling into the desert to see Abu Simbel, or leisurely luxuriating on a beautiful Nile cruise!) but the time had come – I had to go on a camel.

I had a bad feeling about the day before we had even seen the camels. We had booked the trek through our holiday company and were guided towards the animals along a little dusty track just off the Nile, wandering past crumbling, but attractive, huts with small children cheekily peering out at us from their doorways. Now I know what they were thinking, “Which unsuspecting tourist would have a mishap today?”

Our group of tourists was led to the camels. Some of the animals seemed content, chomping away nonchalantly; others were tired, half dozing in the dry Egyptian shade. One of them, however, looked like a troublemaker. It was scrawny, smaller than the others and extremely, oddly fidgety.

One guess which unfortunate tourist was selected to ride on it. Yes, I think the rumours about animals having a sixth sense are certainly true. From the start, I knew this camel did not like me and I did not like it. I had no idea that in order for a camel to stand up it had to lurch forward sharply onto its front legs!

Clinging on before the ride had even begun. Photo courtesy of Emma Wright
Clinging on before the ride had even begun. Photo courtesy of Emma Wright

After I was seated, I nearly fell off as ‘Mini’ ducked forward (I couldn’t help but name the camel, which turned out to be a her). She was obviously not impressed with me, as she collapsed back on the ground, yelling “mnaaaaaarrrrrhhhh!” (we have captured this moment on video and I promise you, that was the noise she made.)

After a couple of attempts at standing, we were finally up and ready to go. Understandably, camels and their statures were matched to humans’ builds, so my husband’s camel was much larger (and sturdier, I thought enviously).

Most of the others towered over mine. Some of the camel owner’s children and friends helped to guide the camels along the Nile trek by holding on to a lead in front. My ‘lead’, Mohammed, was a mischievous but friendly teenager, almost too short for the gallabeya that he was wearing, which dragged along the road as he dashed along.

We had been pacing along for about ten minutes and I was just beginning to feel ever so slightly more comfortable when Mini dragged her toes, stumbled over a large boulder, let out another dreaded “mnaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrhhhhhh!” and decided to collapse back on the floor.

Unfortunately for me, when camels sit down they do pretty much the same as getting up and as Mini sank down, her front legs dropped first, sending me flying over her neck and into poor Mohammed, leading in the front.

I let out an embarrassing shriek of surprise, whilst one of the cool, smug girls in my tour group coming up behind me was in fits of giggles.

With hindsight, I guess I would have done the same. What a sight I must have looked with one of my legs still straddled across the camel’s neck and the rest of me collapsed on poor Mohammed! It was the only time all day that he stopped smiling!

Sadly, for me (but not for the reader) that wasn’t the end of my trek (though, with hindsight, I wish it had been!)

With more and more of the group trailing past me and Mini still “mnaaaaaaarrrrrrhing”, Mohammed’s father came trotting up on a little donkey which was sweating under his weight, yelling “Bad camel! Bad camel! I’ll get another!”

I shook my head vehemently, not wanting to ‘get back on the camel’, as it were, for the rest of my life!

After some persuasion, I was finally happy for Mohammed’s dad to take mad Mini away, profusely promising he would be back.

The second (and more sturdy) camel
The second (and studier) camel. Photo courtesy of Emma Wright

In order to catch up with the rest of the group, Mohammed gestured for me to get on the donkey. With his ever positive smile, I actually thought he was joking to begin with, and laughed. Unfortunately, I was to ride on a tiny donkey to ‘catch up’. I can imagine what the reader is now thinking, and no, it didn’t make sense to me either.

Have you ever ridden on a donkey? It is not a very dignified experience, especially when your feet are only an inch off the ground. However, I carried on, trying to distract myself by enjoying the calm beauty of the Nile, lapping away only metres across the field, rather than think too much about my morning so far.

The worst was still to come. In the distance, I heard a ‘thud…thud…thud…thud’ and tried to simply ignore it, but it was gradually growing louder and louder.

Along came Mohammed’s dad, back again, this time galloping in on a much bigger and sturdier camel. He even had a cloud of dust trailing behind him and looked astonishingly like a cowboy. By this time, I was happy to get off the poor donkey and onto the new, beautifully cream-coloured camel.

I had not realised, however, with all my falling-off of camels and getting onto donkeys, etcetera, how far behind I had fallen. Can you guess what happened next? Well…have you ever galloped on a camel?

I have.

I am happy to say that no more fallings-off have occurred since I first rode a camel. I had a wonderful time in Egypt, the sights of Luxor and Abu Simbel were absolutely incomparable to anything I had ever seen before, but nothing sticks in my memory more than the last day of our trip with Mini the mad camel.

Many thanks to Mohammed for his good nature throughout the camel catastrophe.

If You Go


About the author: Emma Wright lives in England with her husband. They have enjoyed travelling around Europe and North Africa. Emma is aiming to explore Asia next and is looking forward to sharing more tales from her travels.

Janna Graber
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