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After graduating from school I went to college. I enrolled into the Faculty of Arts, English Department, at the Cairo University. The University is old and built on the generous lines of the previous century, very impressive stone structures with wide stairs and columns, high ceilings and tall windows. Though the student body was large, as many faculties were encompassed on the grounds, yet the space was large enough and the green areas well tended. It was with pride that we felt we belonged.
My residence was a bit of a way from the University, and as I had lived all my life within my quarter, school, family and friends all lived there, for me to find my way to University, I had to be taken there by a cousin, the first time I went.
Buses were decent methods of transport then, but even better were the trolley buses. I opted for the second. True they were a bit slower, and the stop was at the long boulevard leading to the University, yet I still preferred that method of transport to the faster, tougher buses. I gave myself extra time to get there because of the time the trolley took to get there, and because of the time it took tot walk down that beautiful boulevard to the campus. A very wide boulevard, with excellent side pavements, lined with pink flowering, umbrella shaped trees, the walk was a great way to exercise in a lovely, fairly quiet area. The walk usually took me ten minutes, but I used to arrive refreshed and ready to take on the world of academia. On the way back, the walk was a way to unwind and start getting into the mood of a relaxed evening. I enjoyed it at any and all times of the day.
One day, I had finished with classes and was on my way down that boulevard to the trolley stop at the top of the road. I was, as usual, walking dreamily, enjoying the mellowing day, appreciating the beauty unfolding before me, when an odd sound penetrated my subconscious, to my conscious brain, a kind of drumming. Then I heard a rather panicked shout. Looking over my shoulder I was flabbergasted by the sight of a whole heard of camels charging down the road in my direction. Total panic. In a split second I was in swift flight, straight down the boulevard, with at least 20 camels hard on my heels. Fright is a wonderful incentive. Never in my life had I ran that fast. At the end of the boulevard I took a sharp left, hoping to duck out of their line of vision, and funnily enough, the moment I did that they started to lag and mill around. A few seconds later a heaving shepherd in a galabeya came up to me shouting: “Why didn’t you stop when I called for you to do that?” I said I had not heard what he said and I panicked when I saw them running towards me. He said they were running after you because they thought you were their leader. It seems they always have someone walk in front of the camels to show them the way. Those huge, smart creatures were just following the rules. I had misled them!
My flight down that boulevard, followed by 20 camels was not universally known, but among my friends it was a difficult thing to live down. That walk which I used to enjoy never felt the same after my camel adventure.