Camels and Cabarets 45 °C
I have lived in the Canary Islands for 25 years, the best time of my life, the happiest time of my life I had in these Fortunate Islands. I went there in 1963 and in 1988 I moved to Malaga. Before that I lived and worked in Gibraltar and went to Morocco often. As we all know, Spain is visited by more than 50 million visitors a year and Canary Islands are visited by more than eight million tourists a year.
In the year 1966 I left my job in Las Palmas and started my own business. But the wanderlust in my veins was very strong and I travelled for some months in Europe, visiting France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland and the U.K. I can safely say, without any false vanity, that until now I have not found a refuge in my life.And although I went visiting other countries and even lived in some, I always went back to the Canary Islands, it was my home and I loved it most.
Around 1966 I came to know a business man who had recently settled in Las Palmas. He came from a country neighbouring Spain. He rented a shop in the main business center, paid a hefty premium in cash, thus spreading the rumor that he was loaded.
At that time there was not much business with El Aaiuñ, the Capital city of Sub-Sahara which was under Spanish control. General franco was still alive and Spanish foreign Legion was stationed there. But the trade was growing and it was not infrequent to see men in long robes, heads covered with turbans and indeed Tuaregs with their blue and white gowns, drinking tea in the shops and doing large purchases. At that time if we wanted to visit El Aaiuñ, we needed a special permit from Madrid. There was only one flight a week, going and coming back the very same day.
This business man was the first to increase trade with sub-saharan market and had, without the general knowledge of any body, opened a Cabaret in El Aaiuñ. A very strange and puzzling prospect indeed. One day I was sitting with him in his office (my office was in front on the other side of the street) and he casually asked me if I knew some one who would be interested in making some money, transporting some stuff to the sub-Saharan Capital.
I told him that indeed I knew such a person, and if he could give me some more details about this deal, I will talk to that person. He however, asked me to bring that person along and he will tell us both about the trip. So I spoke with this man, who was a friend, and I thought reasonably that he would be indeed intereted. So one day soon after that we gathered in my office and over whisky & soda, the businessman unravelled his proposal.
He told us that he had charted a boat in Casablanca to transport camels to Al Aaiuñ and he needed some person whom he could trust, to go along with the cargo. That he had persons of confidence who will take delivery. That he will pay good lump sum money for the trip. Now this friend of mine did not know any body in Casablanca and nothing at all about buying camels in Morocco. So we all had a good laugh and had some more whisky and asked him as to who was going to procure the camels and why go to such lengths when camels could be bought somewhere in the Canary Islands and it was just a hop from Las Palmas to El Aaiuñ. He told us that he needed 48 camels and such number was not readily available in the islands, moreover they would come from Morocco anyway. As to who was going to buy the camles, would I be interested to go along and find some one whom I knew well to buy the camels? So we had some more laughs and splashed some more whisky & soda in the glasses. It is not every day that such an offer comes along. Had he asked me to ride a camel caravan laden with salt to sell in Timbuktu, I would have jumped at the very idea. My heart missed a few beats.
Posted by IsleHopper