He grabbed my arm and wrapped it with his big heavy hand and pulled me forward. My shoes sunk in the muddy puddle underneath. The terror raised in my eyes. I tried to pull back and free my arm from his strong grip. Panic was arising and my heart started beating faster. I am sure the rest of the group found it funny and even adorable. After all, all the poor old guy wanted was for me to kiss the camel not realising that I grew up away from all natural forces and creatures in a comfortable isolated little town. In fact, that was the first time I saw a camel that close. The group found it strange that my first camel encounter happened at the age of twenty-six and over 5000 kilo meters from my home. As a Saudi, I was expected to be best friends with camels and other desert animals. The old guy gave up on me when he saw my fear and was happy with me taking a close up photo instead.
After that unsettling encounter, we hopped back in the van and we were taken higher up. That was only the start of our mountain excursion. Shortly afterward, we stopped at a surprising rest stop for lunch that did not look clean or well kept. They served mediocre Moroccan food neither the group nor I were impressed with. We thought we are going to take the car forward after the meal, because we could not see mountains in site, but the guide surprised us seeing the rest of the journey by foot. We were not told how long we would be walking for or how high and all our questions were answered with “Little bit.” “Not long.”
An hour later, we were still walking. In fact, we were hiking up without any gear. In the middle of complaining about the unexpected hike, the sky started raining. It was all light rain that I would not have minded in other conditions, but on top of the Atlas Mountains, it meant muddy route and uncomfortable breathing. With every step we took up, more beauty was uncovered and majestic mountains welcomed us with their luscious green. Half way to the top, we reached the viewpoint that the guide was after to see three waterfalls seemingly connected in harmony. The site was beautiful and beside it there was a little café sitting conveniently facing it. We were served green tea with mint to warm us up but the breeze was colder than expected and made us shiver in that September day.
Needless to say, I was down with a huge cold afterwards and spent a whole week recovering, but the views I witnessed and the photos I took made it all worth it.