A story of unrequited love – the only type that lasts.
It is mid-morning and we are in the middle of the oases of the Draa. All around us are lush palm trees, dripping in ripening dates. The grass is green underfoot and the birds are singing loudly. Red kasbahs poke up through the trees like fairy-tale castles. So far, so idyllic.
I am at the head of the caravan and, for once, the boys (our camels) are behaving impeccably, not even trying to steal mouthfuls of wheat as we walk. We are trundling along on an unmade road through the fields and turn a corner.
A dignified, robed elderly man is driving his donkey cart towards us. Our camels look at the pretty donkey benignly. Hamish even flutters an eyelash or two.
The warmth of feeling is not reciprocated. The donkey spots us and lets out a volley of absolutely outraged brays along the lines of, ‘What are you? Why are you here? You don’t look anything like a proper animal – a cow, or a horse, or a mule. Get out of my oasis.’
Our camels are saddened at this frosty welcome but take no for an answer and continue on their path. At this point, the donkey decides that they may be donkey eaters. She careers off the road and plunges into the field at breakneck speed. The elegant driver is flung from side to side, grappling with his reins and trying to stay on board as the donkey gallops around wildly.
Mayhem reigns. Addi thrusts Callum’s halter at me and dives into the field to try and help the hajj. Ali moves in after him to catch the donkey and to offer abject apologies and Brahim walks firmly on with me behind, getting our trouble makers the hell out of Dodge.
As I look back, I see Addi tenderly dusting off the owner with Ali saying, ‘Forgive us, Oh, He who has completed the pilgrimage to Mecca, we did not see you approaching. Forgive us.’ ‘Hashouma, shame on us,’ mutters Brahim, and I look sternly at Callum who appears embarrassingly unconcerned.
If you love donkeys, check out the Jarjeer Donkey Refuge who help donkeys and mules in Morocco.