Explorer Mikael Strandberg

Nasr, the Bedouin and additional worries….

“I have put everything on hold” , Nasr told me with sadness, “My father wants me to get married. And since I am the oldest son, I am expected to stay around my family if I get married, so once I am married, I won´t be able to join you. I can´t hold off my father for much longer, I am already 25 years old!”

Another bit of a shocker since we arrived to Oman getting ready to leave in January! Not much has gone our way over here since arrival and I am trying to figure out what direction to take. It is of course just a case of patience and hard work, and since everything here is closed until tomorrow and have been for ten days, I will phone myself hoarse tomorrow…..Anyway, I have just returned back to Muscat after a trip back and forth to Ibra over the day to visit Nasr, one of the two Bedouins (or Bedu as they are called in the Arab World) who is expected to join us for the big overland trip to the Atlantic coast. It was one of the best, most informative and interesting days during this time of mine here in Oman. The reason: Well, just getting close to these great and gracious animals called camels, the flat silent desert and the peace it brings, just made me very happy! It affected all of us three who went there. I have a very good friend visiting me, the legendary coach of Swedens Ice Hockey Team, Bengt “Fisken” Ohlsson. He has done a one months tour of Iran, Dubai, Yemen and now Oman.

“Best day of my trip!” he said, “Fantastic people!”

Eating camel for lunch....From left: Nasr, Abdullah, Pamela and me. Just before the shocking news!
Eating camel for lunch….From left: Nasr, Abdullah, P and me. Just before the shocking news!

Nasr works for Sultans Royal Guards and was off on leave over Eid and his brother Abdullah was home from his studies in India, which was perfect since his English is excellent. Finally we had the chance to sit down and have a good chat. Nasr is well trained physically, motivated and his family lives in a very nice home in village just outside Ibra. Since they are Bedouin, they’re extra-ordinary generous. We were served tender camel cooked in a hole in the ground for over 24 hours. We ate this great dish together with rice and lots of Arabic coffee and halwa.

“I don´t think we will be able to leave in January” , I told Nasr immediately after arrival whilst he looked at me with respect, “We have run into some problems with time, it just takes an enormous amount of time to get things moving here and we still haven´t found any camels good enough for this trip. So that is one reason we have come to visit you today. I heard your cousin had racing camels?”

“Yes he does” , Abdullah translated, “But they´re very expensive. Like a car. The best cost more than 200 000 dollars.”

The Wahiba Bedus way to carry equipment......puuuhh........
The Wahiba Bedus way to carry equipment……puuuhh……..

The cheapest camels are about 10 000 dollars and that is an extra-ordinary sum, but that is life in the Gulf countries. In Yemen of course, you could get one, as good, for a tenth of that price, but it would be impossible to transport them to Oman, the country where we want to start our journey from. We ain´t changing our plans, yet……but there´s no doubt, I want to leave as soon as possible! But January seems unlikely right now, which means if we don´t get started before the beginning of March, it will be impossible, due to the summer heat, to leave until Mid-August. Another bit of a shocker, realizing this. All of those worries left us, of course, as soon as we made it out in to the desert south of Ibra and meeting Rashad the cousin and his 50 racing camels, beautiful, but a little bit twitchy and nervous, like racing horses. We did a little tour around camp and loved it, but I doubt these can do a long trip.

“My best camel runs 8 km in less than 13 minutes!” Rashad said and than showed me how to pack 60 kg on a camel.

Didn´t look good at all. They don´t know, the Bedus of Oman today, about long distance travel. Rashad showed me a lot of techiques and skills how to take care of camels and I enjoyed his company immensely. Funny, street smart, knowledgeable about the camel, loved them, he had worked camels since he was seven and inspired us a lot. We need at least 1 month, maybe two, to live and train the camels we will bring. A time I look forward to a lot. We could easily have stayed at that camp for two months right now, it was that relaxed, silent and pleasant. And free from email, telephones and worries…..right now, am ready for tomorrow!

By the way, I had an email from a friend who said Geoffrey Moorhouse had died. He did an attempt to cross the Sahara in the 70´s and failed. He wrote a book well worth reading if you want to understand the difficulties and dangers involved in camel travel. I wrote this piece about him earlier http://www.mikaelstrandberg.com/2009/04/01/the-fear-factor/ Another worry for us is the development in the region, see this about Dubai and this about Yemen

Rashad -very helpful camel owner and Bedu
Rashad -very helpful camel owner and Bedu