‘Zahra, do you know why donkeys bray in the morning?’ BB asks me – Zahra is my Arabic name. We are walking behind the camels together through a narrow gorge stuffed with vibrant purple flowers which grow in sprays off large bushes that look like a type of broom. Hamish and Callum the camels keep stopping to grab a mouthful and chomp noisily through it. I make some guesses, ‘Because they are hungry? They like to sing to the sun? They want to wake up their owners?’ ‘No, Zahra. There is a holy reason.’ BB settles himself in to tell his tale.
‘The morning prayers are very important and all good Muslims should get up when they hear the call and go to the mosque, but it is very early and Satan is circling. In those early hours, the devil and his cohorts gather up coverlets and walk amongst the sleeping people, laying the blankets gently over them. They are so warm and comfortable that their slumber deepens. Beni Adam, the sons of Adam, are weak and many of them would prefer to stay in bed under Satan’s coverlets than get up and pray to Allah. These coverlets are invisible to us humans, but they are actually green, and to the donkeys they look just like bundles of delicious sweet grass. They bray in hope of being given some to eat. So, when you hear a donkey calling at dawn, you will know that Satan is circling.’
Satan is circling is a wee extract from my latest book, Walking with Nomads, about crossing Morocco and the Sahara with my six camels including Hamish below. It’s available now in all good bookshops, online and on special offer here.