Unexpected Visitor

Here’s the short version of yesterday’s unexpected visitor:

A camel and rider from northern Ghana wandered through Jumbo today. When they paused near my house, the camel knelt and the rider dismounted.  The thin man in a long blue on blue striped caftan held out his right hand, palm up and slightly curved, rubbing his thumb against his other fingers making the universal sign for “give me money.”

I stepped to the front of the gathered crowd and gave the rider two cedis

to have my photo taken sitting on the camel.  I handed my camera to the Assemblyman and climbed onto the waist-high saddle. I held tightly to the U-shaped saddle horn – proud that I didn’t do a somersault when the camel rose on his back legs before standing on all four legs.

I smiled down at the camera.  Click.
I was glad my camera battery was charged to capture me atop the mid-afternoon surprise visitor.

Here’s a longer version with some additional details:

Joshua and Woojay sat on the rubber mats in my courtyard recycling 50ml liquor sachets into capes to wear around their necks. They sewed the 3” x 4.5” pieces of plastic together into a quilt-like pattern of colored rectangles. I threaded their needles and helped tie knots.

We heard people chattering excitedly in the distance; we stood up to see over the courtyard wall to identify the cause of the commotion. It looked like a parade through the pathways in Jumbo.  On the other side of the first house beyond the closest borehole, thirty people followed each other heading north.

I couldn’t see the grandmaster of the impromptu parade until he emerged from behind my neighbor’s house.  A large white camel with a thin rider dressed in blue led the procession. I went inside to grab my camera and the three of us ran fifty yards to catch the now-paused parade. The rider had dismounted. The camel was kneeling, chewing on the bit of rope in his mouth, wearily watching the wide-eyed crowd of men, women and children.


The Assemblyman motioned me forward. I walked through the throng to an open area by the dismounted rider wearing a a blue-on-blue striped caftan and a red turban. His left hand held onto a dirty brown rope laced around the camel’s neck and through its mouth. He held out his right hand, palm up and slightly curved, rubbing his thumb against his other fingers making the universal sign for “give me money.” He wanted money before any pictures were taken. I raced home, grabbed a few cedis and returned to the excited crowd.

When I handed two cedis to the camel’s owner, he motioned me to come closer. My two cedis had paid for not just a photo of the camel – but a photo of me riding the camel. I handed my camera to the Assemblyman and walked toward the white mammal.

The camel’s back was higher than my waist – even while he was kneeling. I hiked up my skirt and threw my right leg over the back of the large beast. I felt a helpful push on my rump as I tried to swing around to align my body to sit up without tottering. After I was stable and holding onto the u-shaped saddle horn, the herdsman touched the camel in a few strategic places – a signal for the camel to stand up.

I held tightly to the hand-carved wooden horn – proud that I didn’t do a somersault when the camel rose on his back legs before standing on all four legs. I smiled for the camera. The Assemblyman snapped a picture. Click. I tucked my long blue skirt around and between my legs so the camera didn’t capture too much above-the-knee pale skin. Click. The Assemblyman handed me the camera; I took some shots of the crowd from my high perch. Click.


My camel “ride” was finished. The camel’s owner signaled the camel to kneel and I dismounted.  The Assemblyman paid a couple cedis to sit on the camel; I snapped a few pictures and took a couple videos. As I took the final video, the red “low battery” on my camera started flashing.

When the Assemblyman’s climbed off the camel, the rider in his native Northern Ghana attire mounted the camel. They ambled down the dirt path – between houses and ducking under trees – toward the eastern edge of Jumbo. Woojay, Joshua and I held hands as we walked with the parade of a couple dozen people.

We stopped at a few houses. Residents looked, smiled, and chatted. No one else paid to ride the camel. 

I took one final picture of the pair before they strode out of town.


I was glad my camera battery was charged enough to capture Jumbo’s mid-afternoon surprise visitor.

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6 Responses to Unexpected Visitor

  1. bill carter says:

    I don’t think I have ever seen anything like that sober. I believe the camel was quite proud to have you as a passenger and would probably like to have a copy of the photo to reflect on the short lived relationship the two of you seemed to enjoy. That was quite an image of the camel and the owner as well. Best prepare for tomorrow’s unexpected, and I do mean unexpected, vistor by charging up these batteries. Quoting the words of a very infamous PCV ” Keep Your Batteries Charged”

    • lsmittle says:

      Hmmm… Bill. “Keep your batteries charged” sounds so familiar. I think I have heard it before.

      The next unexpected visitors may be “camel spiders.” My PCV neighbor Nate saw one at his place today.

  2. barbson says:

    Oh what a remarkable story. How I would love a camel bringing my newspaper to my front door. What excitement

  3. sharon says:

    What a fun surprise, have you seen other camels? Was this man making his living having people pay to sit on his camel? If so sounds like not many takers in your village. Glad your camera battery held a charge for these great pictures. What an interesting day. Did you get your money on Monday? Look forward to your next post

    • lsmittle says:

      That’s the first camel I have seen in Ghana. Apparently they “tour” through Ghana earning money from the locals who pay for the experience.

      Oh… I finally made it to back to the bank today, Sharon. I will make you read this weekend’s post to see if I got my money.

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