Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Reluctant Storyteller

 Admittedly, once the sun's gone down and you're all danced out, there isn't much to do in the desert ... 


I am 51 years old and aboard a Camel named Azell, at least by day, with eight members of Hazel Keyes Arabian Dance Class. Alright, we are belly dancers - having the time of our lives in the Sinai Desert. We have a support team that includes Giles the Oud player, Mohammed the drummer, and as many  male accomplices as could be persuaded to attend on us. Six, if my memory serves me right. Spouses and lovers of the dancers - men  who might be seen at every camp adorning the high places as if laying claim to all they surveyed. This may well  be what men need to do, I say, tentatively. We women were more interested in finding discreet places to pee. 


There are stories aplenty to be told: the horrendous  journey from Cairo to Sharm-el-Sheik in a minibus, being offered sex at the ghastly hotel there and quitting the scene at speed with my integrity intact, learning to ride and stay astride a camel ... Days of stark beauty nights under blazing stars ... 


And the dancingBetter demonstrated than described, but not here, not now, I don't have my coin belt and veil with me ... At sunrise, before breakfast,  the dancers, and accompaniment, would head off to a suitably stunning view above a patch of sand, lay down our mats, and practice whatever we were to perform after supper that evening back at the camp,which, by the way,  resembled Abraham's and was erected daily by members of Faranjela's clan. 


Fourth day in, Chris, our guide explained, as we scrambled down into Powder Canyon, and the sand underfoot WAS just like talcum powder - that this was part of the route the Israelites had taken out of Egypt into the Promised Land. 


To my utter amazement, none of the members of our party had any idea of what he was talking about, and Chris, unprepared for the level of interest, couldn't fill them in.


'Oh! I explained, You're talking about the Exodus!' And, encouraged to do so, I told the tale.' I can't believe you don't know this! I said, genuinely puzzled. "Why would we, we're from Stroud!" Was. Colena's response. (Colena who set fire to herself trying to smoke something she's picked in a very well-watered  plantation we found, and hastily left, in the middle of nowhere. We let her put herself out) 


For the rest of the holiday I was called upon every evening to tell a story. Fortunately, we arrived back at base camp during the Shipwreck of St Paul and I wasn't called upon to interpret the Book Of Revelation!

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