ABANDONING THE BABY CAMEL: In this photo, I am riding my camel with my Touareg father, Ahoudan, as we trek across the Bagzan mountains of Niger’s Aïr. Always preferring my own two feet (hence “alzharawalking”), I was not an avid camel rider. But on this particular trip, I became sick, and Ahoudan spent his time carrying me, or holding me atop my camel.
The Bagzan mountains shelter the mysterious boulders of Toffatat; ancient rock dwellings of prehistoric peoples. At the very top of Toffatat hides a chrystalline pool with magical healing properties… so they say. I remember our descent from the Bagzan mountains vividly. We clambered down the rocky narrow path holding tightly to our camels.
Approximately halfway down the mountain lay a baby camel. It was alone and whimpering. I climbed off my camel in order to caress the baby, and asked what was wrong with the animal. It had fallen and broken its leg. Its mother had had to abandon it. “We cannot leave this baby to die. I will not abandon it like its mother”, I declared.
My parents urged me to get back onto my camel, as I cried and cried. Ahoudan gave it some water, and looked at me with his warm eyes. “We can do nothing for this baby”, he said sadly. I cried for days, wanting to return to save the camel, and take it as my own.
Photo by Michael and Aubine Kirtley.