There was this one time I was sitting shotgun in a white Range Rover and we were off-roading in a desert in the United Arab Emirates. We were swerving around camels and I was wearing this red and white turban on my head like some sort of devout Muslim and there were a bunch of birds in the backseat. The Crown Prince of Ajman’s son was at the wheel and there was a falconer with us. He was in charge of all the feathers; three falcons wearing leather hoods over their heads and a cage of live pigeons were in the trunk, covered by a carpet and some prayer rugs and a picnic dinner that could feed a small army. I was about to go hunting with falcons with the Crown Prince’s family and they were going to teach me how to pray in Islam.
“This is your first time?” Mohammad asked me in an Arab accent.
I wasn’t sure if he was referring to falconry or being in the UAE. “Yes,” I answered to both.
“Yes,” he yelled back and he followed with something excited and loud and cut the wheel and ripped the parking brake on and we threw this desert storm of dust behind us and we started sliding sideways down a dune towards our deaths. The Range Rover rolled over but we had so much momentum that the sand fell softly with us and we just flipped back up and over again. No dead humans. No Rover damage. Maybe a few broken wings.
“Allah Akbar!!!” they both yelled.
“Jesus Christ,” I mumbled. What am I doing here?
I don’t often get in expensive cars with Arab royalty, but when I do, it’s not boring. We were in town filming a documentary about six Americans traveling across the Middle East during the Arab Spring. We had travelled to Ajman that day to meet Mohammad’s cousin, the Green Sheikh, Dr. Abdulaziz bin Ali bin Rashid Al Nuaimi.
“Everyone okay?” I asked the ceiling and the falconer but Hafedh and Mohammad were too busy dealing with the insanity in the back. All three falcons were flapping around and trying to fly everywhere, but they were stuck in mid-air because they were chained to these portable metal perches. None of them could see shit because of the little hoods over their heads. Hafedh was trying to hold the falcons down and the falcons were giving him the business. I hoped all the pigeons in the trunk weren’t dead.
“Are you okay?” Mohammad asked me.
“Yes,” and I gave him two thumbs up, “Yalla.”
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