I had no choice but to stop. The way was blocked by camels – too many of them to count. I was on a road, a hundred or so kilometres out of Agdz in the Southern Oases of Morocco and hadn’t passed another car for over two hours. The sky was blazing blue and there was desert scrub as far as the eye could see on either side of me.
In amongst the melee and noise of jostling camels, I spotted a lone figure, swathed in a black turban and carrying what looked like a shepherd’s crook. This must be the camel herder and so I stepped out to chat to him and ask him where he was going.
He told me he was off to market to sell his camels and that he still had about 60km to go. His herd was big – over 200. Of course, he didn’t aim to sell all of them, but they could all graze on the journey.
And then he wanted to know about me: Why did I speak Arabic? Could I speak Berber? What was I doing here? Where did I live? Was I married?
When the answer to the last question was “No”. His eyes lit up.
“Very good,” he said, “Very good!” Come along with me. You have no husband and I have 200 camels.” And he flashed a smile that would melt much harder hearts than mine.
Alas, good sense prevailed and the allure of a pair of gleaming black eyes and an abundance of charm was resisted.
“I can’t,” I said, “But here, I have something sweeter than myself to give you.” I handed him four ripe figs that I had bought from a kid selling them on the roadside.
“Oh Beautiful One,” he replied, ” I will not eat these. I will keep them here, close to my heart as a memory of you.”
I drove off with a smile in my soul.