May 27, 2012

More Advice to Women Travelers | Egyptian Deserts

More Advice to Women Travelers, 1848
Harriet Martineau


. . . And how many miles did I walk in the Desert, during those five weeks! I found, as some others did, the motion of my camel more and more fatiguing and disagreeable, all the way; and, being at home a great walker, I had recourse, more and more, to my own feet, little heeding even the heat and thirst in comparison with the annoyances of camel-riding. I have often walked from ten to fifteen miles in the noon hours, continuously, and of course at the pace of the caravan, sometimes over an easy pebbly track, sometimes over mountain passes, sometimes cutting my boots to pieces on the sharp rocks; but always giving up when we came to deep sand. Walking in deep sand in the Arabian Desert, at noonday, is a true purgatory; but there is little deep sand. We did not believe that more than one-fifth of our Desert route was sandy.

As for the camel-riding, I could not have conceived of any exercise so utterly exhausting. The swaying motion, causing an unintermitting pull upon one part of the spine, which can by no means be exchanged for another, becomes at last perfectly intolerable, though easy and agreeable enough at the outset. I would never say a word to encourage any woman to travel in the Desert, if she must do it on the back of a camel. If she can walk as I do, well and good; and I am told it is easy and agreeable to go on a donkey from Cairo to Jerusalem by the El Arish route. ... A woman who can walk far and easily, and bear the thirst which is the chief drawback on walking in the Desert, may set out for Mount Sinai without fear.

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