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Published: December 28th 2014
There are some travel experiences that exceed the excitement, mystique and hopes of the wide-eyed traveler: the way one's breath is stolen upon first seeing the pyramids; the smallness one feels seeing animals roaming wild on safari; the marvel of wondering how ancient cultures ever survived when one sets foot in an oasis....those are all moments one never forgets.
Then there are those moments that fall far below expectations, the moments the travel books got all wrong. My dad and Will still laugh when they remember the plans for the great floating market in Thailand that ended up being two boats selling souvenirs and cheap plastic crap. Or the much anticipated Camel Market in Douz, Tunisia where there was literally one camel tied to a tree. Those instances make great stories, but never match the greatest of those unforgettable, grand moments.
I am almost giddy in the aftermath of one such great moment that far exceeded my expectations: the Camel Market in Al-Ain. Experiencing a camel market has been on my bucket list for some time. We drove past one in Egypt over 20 years ago, but did not stop. We planned our entire trip to Algeria/Tunisia to be
in Douz on market day and found only sheep, goats, cattle and the like. So when we left our hotel this morning before the sun came up, there was a twinge of worry that we had trekked to an oasis in UAE for another "oh well, it makes for a great story moment." Not so.
Our day at the market was more than I could have ever dreamed. We pulled in at 7 am to find stall after stall filled with camels of every shape, color and age. We estimate between 2,500 and 3,000 camels were there. We found stalls and stalls of sheep, goats and even cattle. There were vendors selling hay, grain, feed bunks and everything else you might find at your local farm supply shop or Co-Op.
We spent the day walking from pen to pen exchanging pleasantries with the herdsmen and learning about camels. We met herdsmen from Afghanistan, Sudan, UAE and other places. We inspected hay shipped in from Sudan, Dubai and, were told, even from the USA. We watched transactions between sellers and buyers.
We earned some street cred when we pulled out photos of our camels. Once they got over
Dad Observing a Big Sale
This camel sale created a lot of buzz with the herdsmen in the area. We are not sure why, but we were in the middle of it all!
the shock of camels being in America and a woman tending to them, they were in awe of Shamrock Farms, especially the green grass. One herdsman described the ranch as "a jungle." Another asked if he could move with us. And they all got a chuckle when they asked "how much?" for Algiers and I explained "Never! He is my baby."
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