Saturday, 23 November 2013

Two red apples, or about perception vs reality.

People, I am no longer a camping virgin.

For many years, Husband tried, unsuccessfully, to convince me that camping is fun. But I explained, patiently every time, that I have perhaps an irrational, yet very real fear of rapists, serial killers, child kidnappers as well as (now in Qatar) scorpions and Horned Viper snakes lurking in the dark just waiting for us to arrive and stay overnight.

But this camping trip was different. Friends of ours organized a small group of people to join them on a so-called glamping, or glamorous camping, with showers and toilets and everything organized and taken care of for us- from the moment we got picked up in 4 very properly Qatari Land Cruisers, to the dinner and breakfast the morning after.

I have to admit, I am still, even having had a fantastic time, not the camping type. And perhaps, I will never change. I can't get the flying cockroach and slithering snake probabilities out of my head to fully relax and enjoy sleeping in a tent, I am cold and uncomfortable, and at some point, however nice the facilities are, just want to go back home at night.

But, what an experience!

To start with, the drivers were all dressed in Qatari thobes. I guess that was part of the show we paid for- a truly authentic experience. I have to admit, in their attire, along with the white Land Cruisers, they really looked the part. And, I could tell from the way Husband spoke to our driver, that he got fooled into thinking the guy was a Qatari and not a Pakistani. Of course having thought about that for a minute, we quickly realized how silly we were -why on Earth would any respectable Qatari have a job of driving curious expats around the desert?

Our driver was cool though. He took his (acting) job very seriously, and, without even checking with me or my mother at the very back of the car, took us on some serious dune-bashing on the way to the camp. I guess, the time to worry was when one of the cars in our convoy turned around and disappeared.

'Where are those guys going then?' I asked, and got told they did not want to ride up and down the dunes and headed straight to the camp.

We then proceeded to climb some pretty vertical dunes and sliding down them in a sickening slow motion. And you know, I enjoyed it, to be honest. Maybe all of it, except for the sideways sliding down, which was-for me- a bit too scary.

But what amused me the most on this glamping trip, was not the unique feeling of hanging upside down at the edge of a dune, and not the beautiful sun rise in the desert…but the realization of just how different the reality can be from perception.

At some point in the middle of the desert, (which by the way, is busier than a local market on a Friday afternoon, with dine buggies and land cruisers flying back and forth all around you), a dark old Patrol was approaching our car at a great speed, coming dangerously close, almost hitting us, blocking our way. My first thoughts were that our driver pissed the other guy off somehow. Maybe he was driving too fast in front of him, or went down his personal dune- who knows? The guy was shouting something to our driver and our driver slowed down and pulled the window down.

'Oh no!', I thought, 'don't do that! Don't get in the fight, with me and my two small kids in the back of your car! '

Suddenly, having shouted a few very fierce-sounding sentences at our driver, the man in the other car leaned out and passed over two red apples and what looked like a box of Paracetamol.

What was that??- I dared to finally ask, as our driver smiled and drove off, storing the apples safely away in the cold box of the car.

'Oh', he replied, 'his brother stays in our camp, too. He just asked me to pass this on to him'.

Two red apples and some painkillers for his brother. And I thought we were about to be dismembered and buried in the desert, amongst all the litter of random car parts.

That experience got me in a somewhat thoughtful and philosophical mood for the evening. As I sat in our Bedouin camp, sipping sweet tea and trying not to notice something suspiciously large flying around my head, (which if you ask me, could easily have been a roach but let's just not go there), I was thinking of how wrong we can be assuming things about other people, simply because they belong to a different culture and speak the language we don't understand. We think we know, we think we can tell by their facial expressions or the intonation. But nope. Not that easy, you see? Sometimes when you think someone is very angry, he just wants to send his brother a couple of apples.


  1. Great!
    I went camping only once in my life, and I got so burnt by the sun that my whole body was a single ache like for a week. I was 13...
    I have a friend who receives every January 1 in a camping. It's a huge group, like 50 or so, and they even take a butler! Yes, a butler. The group departs from Lima right after Christmas and stay at the beach for two weeks.

  2. A while back I read one of your posts about youth in Baku performing some old Jackson dance in Baku streets. Very conclusively and generically, you had declared that Azaris cannot be fun. I wanted to mention this to you for a while but I think this new post of yours is a better opportunity to raise this issue.
    In fact Azari culture has a lot of room for humor but the Azari sense of humor is mostly verbal. You should know the language very well to catch its subtilities and catch the jokes.

  3. I am also planning a trip to desert late in Februrary next year. They say after rain the scene suddenly transforms and becomes lush. Then after a short while everything dries up again.
    I am taking excersises so that I can make it. It requires heavy walking,

    1. Nice to meet you, Yasaman, your profile looks amazing. Lush might be a strong word for a lot of dust, but I hope you will have a great time anyway. :)