Saturday 20 June 2009

50 Camels!!!!

..... actually it was more like two donkeys and a gerbil! That, apparently, is how much I'm worth on the open market! BTW this is my last blog post (I think) about my past; after all this is supposed to be about my cat. However, I think he's needed a bit less of me me me time, just to make him realise that the whole world doesn't revolve around him. Well, ok, it does, but I have to assert my authority sometimes so the status can be allowed to return to quo!

Back to the camels
and donkeys. When it came to currency exchange we were told that the best and cheapest way to do it was to go down to the Christian quarter of the old city to Shaban's shop (most of the shops were run by Arabs) and he would exchange pretty well anything for anything and wouldn't shaft you as much as some of the other moneychangers. Amazing really because about three days after the transaction the money appeared on your bank statement as going into some numbered account in Switzerland! He was very used to dealing with wet-behind-the-ears naïve westerners and as there were a lot of us, he knew when he was on to a good thing: so he didn't need to charge too much. However, when the ground war started in Jan 91 he suddenly disappeared. I won't go into why, but enough to say that the reason was more political than criminal.

He left us all in the capable hands of Lutfe who had a little shop that sold Bedouin clothes and artifacts. Whenever we went down there, it was all very laid back and unhurried. So we'd have a cuppa (but not "tea" as we know it!) and put the world to rights while doing the business with the shekels. Could have taken all day if you weren't careful. It was great fun and - to this rather prosaic, earth-bound Occidental - very exotic, especially the day when business was slow and Lutfe made me dress up in the full garb (see above)! He thought I looked very fetching! I thought I looked better in the gas mask. Things got a bit unclear after that, but I believe the subject of a dowry came up: as I wasn't clear about who was supposed to pay whom - did I really want to saddle my father in South Bucks with a whole herd of camels, or even a couple of donkeys? When I talked to him later on the phone, he said what with the congestion on the M25, a camel or even a donkey might solve his commuting problems. In fact he could foresee a business opportunity - "Camel Cabs".
I did move off campus into an apartment in West Jerusalem, but eventually I decided that the climate and the continual "shishaks" were doing more harm than good, so made the reluctant decision to come back to Blighty in November '91.
I did meet some very cool wise men though :>)


  1. Interestingly, when a friend of mine was in Spain (not tourist Spain, I mean real Spain) she was told she was worth some camels, a second hand car and possibly even a rug shop.

    Scarily, if the guy had thrown in a fish tank or two her dad may have actually taken him up on the offer, haha!

    That street scene photo looks amazing. I just can't imagine actually living somewhere like that...

  2. Lol @ fish tank.

    It was quite amazing to be there, especially then. It is a special place!

    Thanks for your comments Sarah, I appreciate you taking the time to read it all. I'm stunned, to be honest!

  3. I have done a lot of traveling but nowhere that you have been. Close...but no cigar if you will. :-)


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