Sometimes, you need to get away from the same old routine

Glowering clouds, wet window panes, a black sea, gulls floating on the storm, bandy-legged men hitching up their robes to wade through ankle-deep rivers where streets should be, cardboard boxes, old pieces of furniture and sheep heads floating through the market place. That's right. It's early evening in southern Arabia. I'm in Oman to ride a camel across a desert.

Why? It is because we all need to act the bedouin from time to time. Riding a camel over a distant horizon will, I am assured, put me in touch with the nomad and the hunter-gatherer deep inside me. It is about remembering that the sun shines in the day and the moon in the night. It is about not having to answer the telephone a hundred times a day. It is also, funnily enough, about discovering what made Genghis Khan tick and why the Great wall of China had to be built.

Except that at this rate my camel-trek will probably be rained off. Which gets me wondering what attitude self-respecting camels have to rain - I suspect it makes them feel terribly insecure and useless. What is the good in having spent millions of years investing in a giant water barrel on your back when there is plenty of water lying around everywhere in any case? The poor animals might as well look for jobs as wine critics in Saudi Arabia.

It must be the same for the bedouin. These are the people whose area of special expertise lies in surviving drought, sunshine and sand storms, whose spiritual energies are devoted to coping with the bitterness of impermanence, when they are not breaching other peoples' Great Walls of China. But when they look out of their tent flaps in the morning and realise that the desert has today turned into a nicely watered piece of agricultural land and tomorrow will be blooming like an Amsterdam flower festival - what on earth are they to supposed to make of it?

No doubt they will ask themselves all the usual tough questions about the nomadic life. Is the ability to ride for 19 days without water, or to face off a 100mph sand storm, really a more useful asset than being able to manage a medium-sized grocery-export business for example?

And by the time - say a fortnight later - that the desert is full of fat-tailed sheep and ripening tropical fruit even the thought of owning things like fridges and electric ice-cream makers will begin to seem rather less embarrassing than before. But a leaking piece of woven camel hair draped over a frame of sticks might no longer look like such a great place to spend the night.

The next stage is they'll be dropping out from bedouin society altogether. Instead of rugs designed to be rolled up and bunged on the back of a camel, they will acquire wall-to-wall carpeting; instead of water-skins they will have bottles of French mineral water. All in all, they look like finding the repressed urbanites deep inside themselves long before I ever find a single nomad. By the way, has anyone seen my umbrella?

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionist, Bar and Waiter / Waitress & Housekeeping

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The positions above are available either part ...

    Guru Careers: Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager

    £25K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Museum is dedicated to exp...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

    £20600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Museum is dedicated to exploring th...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food