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Traveling the world and exploring ancient wonders may sound fantastic, but trust me, it’s not. It’s hot. It’s dusty. It’s bor-ing. Everywhere we go, it’s the same deal—don’t do anything, don’t touch anything, don’t talk to anybody.
Well, not this time.
“Hey, Ethan, now’s our chance.” My best friend, Garrett, grinned from his camel. “Let’s see what these babies can do.”
Taking off in the middle of our guided tour? Mom would freak. But it was totally worth it. Anything to scrape out a little fun in the middle of this snoozefest.
My heart pounded as I checked to make sure no one was watching. They were all busy helping a Japanese lady who’d fallen off her camel while twisting to get a picture of the pyramids. Perfect opportunity for a little joyride.
“Okay, time to move now, camel. Niiiice camel. Come on.” My friend looked at me in confusion. “How do I make it go?”
“I dunno.” I shrugged. “Same as a horse, I guess.”
I leaned as far as I could, but my fingers barely brushed the rein the driver had left hanging. Man, I hated being short. Just one more inch and I’d have it. I tried again, leaning so far I nearly fell—and, victory!
I wrapped my fingers around the rough leather and gave the rein a snap. My camel took off like a jet-powered roller coaster.
“Whoa!” I clasped a handful of blanket fringe to keep from tumbling to the sand. A few yards later, my camel stopped and shook his furry head.
“Nice move, dude. Very smooth.” Garrett laughed.
Before I could retort, the driver ran toward us, his long white robe billowing around his sandaled feet.
“Bidi widi nila wila,” the man yelled.
Or at least, that’s what I heard. I’m sure he was telling us to stop messing with his camels, but since I didn’t speak Arabic, it was gibberish to me.
Any other day, I would have fallen back in line like the obedient schoolboy I was.
“Come on.” I jammed my heels into the animal’s sides, causing it to bleat in protest.
It lurched forward again, veering past the screaming driver toward the dunes of the open desert. The saddle slammed against me with each jarring bounce until I found the rhythm and began to move with the rolling gait.
“Yeehaw!” Garrett’s lame cowboy impression made me laugh, and I tilted my head back, enjoying the breeze.
And the freedom.
Garrett led us between two massive pyramids. The jagged surface of the Great Pyramid of Khufu towered on our right, surrounded by more tourists and Egyptians hawking cheap trinkets. I wondered if Mom was still inside, getting her special tour with the Egyptian Director of Antiquities.
So far, Dr. Bakhoum was the only cool thing about Egypt. He wasn’t like the stuffy archaeologists Mom usually interviewed for her magazine articles. For starters, he was absolutely huge. That could’ve been intimidating, except he always had a smile on his face, like an Egyptian Santa Claus . . . if Santa dug around in tombs and talked about dead people having their brains pulled out through their noses.
As we passed the pyramids, we had to slow down to weave through clumps of people. It was fun towering over everybody like a pharaoh making an appearance among the commoners. Very surprised commoners.
An Egyptian boy waved a handful of necklaces at us, shouting, “I give you good price!”
I was almost tempted. The shiny ankhs and tiny gods dangling on woven strings hinted at ancient mysteries. I was old enough to know they were just cheap junk, but it was fun to imagine they could be more.