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What to do if you’re sitting on the back of a camel and you need to pee.

I have so many memories from my trek across the Sinai desert in Egypt. Like learning to tie a Keffiyeh headscarf from an eight year old. Or watching my Bedouin tribesman guide flip flat bread over the fire with his bare fingers. Or seeing the first rays of sun turning the top of Mount Sinai pink. But for some reason, my most vivid memory is of me, sitting on top of a camel, desperately needing the loo.

Sinai Egypt

On our second night sleeping under the desert stars, one of our Bedouin guides who spoke English told us about the tribes traditions and history.

“Many members of our tribe are born deaf,” he explained. “So we all use sign language to communicate.”

He cupped his hand around his chin.

“Man,” he said, explaining the signal, derived from the fact that all the men have beards. “Woman,” he said, using his hand to cover his face from his nose down. Women in the Bedouin tribe wear clothes to cover everything but their eyes.

“This one is important,” he said, as freshly cooked rice and chicken was passed around and threatened to distract us from our lesson in sign language. “I want…” he began, hooking his right index finger towards his belly button, “…to pee,” he finished, pointing his finger in the direction his pee would travel.

Sinai Desert Egypt.

I remembered this lesson as I rocked gently with the rhythm of my camel on our fifth day of trekking. Zayed, who was holding the frayed rope lead of my camel, was walking slowly ahead of me. I’d practiced my sign language on him the night before, asking for sugar in my tea by tapping on my tooth. (The Bedouin know that sugar rots your teeth…) But with the language barrier, we hadn’t managed to communicate much, and I had a sudden thought:

If Zayed is deaf, how do I get his attention to sign that I need to pee?

Just as I was beginning to panic that I’d be stuck up there, bursting, forever, Zayed turned around and smiled at me.

“I want to pee!” I signed quickly. He laughed at my desperate expression, and nodded.

We found a stone mound, behind which I could hide my modesty, and Zayed stopped my camel. You may well have heard that getting on a camel is a bit of challenge. But getting off, even if you’re not in need of the loo, is a whole lot worse. Think bucking bronco slash violent rollercoaster. But Zayed helped, and I made it down just in time.

A couple of minutes later, we were back at the rear of the group. Looking at the impossible sharp mountain peaks in the distance, I sighed to myself:

“Goodness this is beautiful.”

Daisy is a freelance writer and an avid traveller who has recently grown some roots in Paris. She likes nothing better than to pack up a backpack, set a destination, and get totally lost on the way. Which is pretty much exactly what happened when she decided to trek across the Sinai desert with a group of friends.

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