One last thing about Turkmenistan before we move on: camels.
No animal seems to capture the essence of grace while embracing its own awkwardness like the Dromedary camel. Though you'll catch the occasional loner wandering the open scrub or tracing the roadside, camels are actually domesticated. They move in herds and are raised for their meat and milk. If you have the chance, try chal – a fizzy, fermented version of camel milk.
We never could get our fill of camel-spotting, camel-chasing and camel-filming. Our group regressed into a Romper Room of riotous pre-schoolers each time we spotted one of these unmistakable beasts in the distance.
Our camel-gazing climax occurred as we returned to the town of Mary after bone digging in Gonur Depe. In the middle of nowhere, we were fortunate enough to meet a man who owns 183 of them. As we admired his camel collection, our guide Oleg continually noted, “Very rich man. Very rich.”
As scruffy and smelly as camels can be, they exhibit a sort of elegance and poetry all their own. If only they could share their stories and tell us the history of the lonely stretch of land – Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert – that they inhabit.
In case you don’t like camels, don’t watch the video. There’s braying, chewing, feeding and even a little kiss at the end.