Friday, January 1, 2010

Festival of the Sahara and potpouri

I was all prepared to ride in the 42 kilometer marathon in the Douz festival. But as the days neared the festival it became clear that I wouldn't be able to this year.

When I bought Mabrouk, my Algerian Toureg racing camel a week before the festival last year, he was quite thin. So, for the past year, I have increased his diet, and he became plumper and stronger. One of the signs of a healthy camel is the size of their hump, where they store fat.

In November, I went into the desert for five days to practice racing Mabrouk for the festival. But several times, the saddle slipped off and I almost fell off. This was very scary for me, as your butt is over 6 feet off the ground. A fall could cause a lot of injury, especially riding fast. My confidence in my saddle, and my riding ability was fading. I couldn't figure it out, and neither could the guys. So, I stopped riding him, and was very discouraged.

When I got back, my friend, Fathe, a professional racer, tried racing Mabrouk, and the saddle fell off for him too! Well, we finally figured it out. When most camels gain weight, their hump looks like an upside down "U". But Mabrouk's hump looked more like an upside down wide "V". There was not enough room in front of the hump (where racing saddles sit) for my saddle anymore. We tried a training saddle, which is a bit smaller, but it was so uncomfortable. It is homemade, and the wood post pressed very hard on my crotch, and hurt in a few minutes - I couldn't imagine sitting on this for 42 kilometers - around 5 hours!

So the good news was that I understood what the problem was, and that it wasn't me. The bad news was that I couldn't ride in the much awaited marathon. Although extremely disappointed, at least I know it is not me... I will get a special saddle made for me and Mabrouk in the next month or two. Inshallah, I will ride next year.

So, in the festival, a young boy named Osama rode Mabrouk in the short race - 7 kilometers, just to give him some practice. It was the first race for both Osama and for Mabrouk! Osama is very small, so the training saddle was okay for him. Mabrouk didn't do very well. He didn't know Osama, and it was his first time. After a great start, Mabrouk got confused and ran in another direction! (he is trained for camel dancing) But I am proud of him anyway!!!

Enjoy the photos. They are of Osama and Mabrouk, and of Fathe racing his camel Casper (Mabrouks friend) in the race! I couldn't get any of Mabrouk in the race as he never did complete it! There are also other photos of the festival.

Then, there are photos of my friends (notice how the baby, Sabah's legs are "swaddled" - babysitters are non-existent and the women work very hard and babies can't be tended to all the time). The last photos are of the henna I had done the other day! It is the traditional pattern that women here do before weddings, or 'just because'! Enjoy, and happy new year!

Love, Juanita


shakuka said...

great pictures and atmosphere!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Henna

Maroot said...

I like your blog, your stories and photos...