The question about riding a camel always struck me as especially amusing. In all my years in Iran, I had never seen a camel...ever. Or a Persian cat for that matter. How we got credit for that beautiful fluffy breed of cat when all I ever saw was stray alley cats, I will never know. And the closest thing that I had ever done to riding a camel in Iran was riding a donkey. Aghaye Ashkani's (Mr. Ashkani's) donkey to be exact. Aghaye Ashkani (RIP) was a kind gentleman who used to help my grandmother around with the house, gardening, repairs, etc in Taleghan. During the summer, all my aunts, uncles and cousins would gather at my grandmother's house. I loved it when Aghaye Ashkani came around with his donkey because he would take us for a ride on it. That was one of the things we always did. "Do you want to ride Aghaye Ashkani's donkey?" they would ask. Baleh! Now that I think about it, the poor donkey was probably miserable, but we, of course, loved it!
|With my siblings and cousins in Taleghan, 1983|
Once matters were settled back at the fight, the owner somehow caught up with the camels and me who were now in the middle of nowhere. He brushed off the fact that I was freaked out about riding on top of the speeding camel completely unsupervised. In the typical non-chalant Iranian manner, he just waved his hand, Na baba, she won't do anything! But I have a sneaky feeling he was thinking spoiled American.
Besides this little scare, I did thoroughly enjoy my first camel ride and decided to make it a thing every time I went back to Neyshabur. So when I returned a few years later, I couldn't wait to see the camels. This time, I was shocked to see that they looked a lot fancier! Almost exactly like the stereotype. Wasn't this the same camel that Aladdin rode in on when he went to meet Princess Jasmine?
In 2006, I was the obvious khareji, foreigner, doing any camel riding while the native Neyshaburis looked at me like a divooneh, crazy person. But this time I noticed more people were around with their children eager to go for a ride on the camels and horses or take a ride with the whole family in the carriage. If you ask me, I think maybe the camel was happy about this, too.