The Camel's Tale

By Hyder Khalil February 16, 2012

Camel in a shed by Rob Wiltshire

This is the first in our series of Guest Posts on the theme of Joseph, kindly submitted by the one and only, Hyder Khalil. Watch this space for future submissions!

The Camel’s Tale

I am Noor, lead camel for a group of Ishmaeli traders. We are based in Gilead –you might know it as North-West Jordan. The traders make regular trips to and from Egypt – taking spices and silks from the East, pottery, and other things, and bringing back dates, wine, and the finest cotton.

That morning, they got us up early, obviously for another trip. The traders bustled about, while we stood around. We knew the drill – wait until they loaded us up. Not too much, we all hoped – part of the journey to Egypt is pretty rough country, and we camels don’t like heavy loads in such places. We had double rations and a good drink – both necessary to ‘plump the hump’ for the journey.

We set off, and all went as usual for two or three days. Then in the middle of a wild place we came across a group of young men. They were beating up one of their number – these humans, always quarrelling, why can’t they just get along? Then they go and throw the poor lad down some sort of pit, and start arguing about a rather pretty coat he had. A big bearded fellow turned round, and seeing us started waving and talking excitedly to the others. They all rushed over and jabbered at our traders, waving at the pit where the lad was. Then Amir, our lead trader, nodded, and handed over some shiny bits of metal to the bearded fellow, at which point the others dragged the boy out of the pit and handed him over to Amir.

Amir and the others don’t want anything much that they can’t sell, so I knew pretty well what was going to happen here. We were going to take him with us, quickly too, to Egypt, and they were going to try to sell him to someone rich for many more shiny bits of metal (which seem to mean a lot to humans).

We set off lickety spit. The lad had to go on foot. Amir and the rest wouldn’t make us carry him, for fear we might get hurt or lame, and we are their livelihood, so they make sure they look after us. On and on – just scraps of food and a few sips of water to drink for him. If he thought getting there was bad, wait till he got to Egypt. I’ve seen how some people treat slaves in Egypt, and I wouldn’t wish it on a snake.

At last we crossed into Egypt, and then on to the big city. When we arrived, Amir didn’t take us to the marketplace as usual, but straight to a big house – clearly where some rich high-up lived. Someone – some official I think – came out and had a look at the poor lad we had brought with us. He didn’t look in too great shape by now, even though the last bit of the journey had only been about 4 days. The official nodded, handed over a heavy-looking bag filled with more of those shiny metal pieces, and took the lad away. Then we went to the marketplace as usual to change our goods over and have a rest.

Two days later we went home, with new loads. There was no sign of the lad we had brought. He could be in for a rough time. Wonder what he was going to do.

Photo of “Camel in Shed” by Rob Wiltshire: