More From "Beyond The Hindu Kush" by Sir Mortimer Featherstonehaugh

Written by Erskin Quint

Monday, 4 April 2011


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Not The "Shop Of The Desert", Despite What Alexander Said: A Bacterian Camel Yesterday

The camel is often called the ship of the desert, and not without reason. Few craft are able to attain the speed of a camel in full sail, amid the harsh environs of the deserts of the Asian interior, and a camel at anchor - her shuddering flanks agleam beneath a brick-red sky - is a noble sight to rank with anything to be spied in the watercolours of J M W Turner, the famous coloured water artist known as the painter of light to distinguish him from his French counterpart, Charles Attanne, the painter of dark.

The idea that the camel was known as the shop of the desert is a popular misconception propagated by Alexander The Great in an attempt to discredit the Persian Horsemen. Why Alexander should use a camel-based calumny to denigrate those whose favoured mode of travel was the noble horse is a mystery to this day. Perhaps he was in his cups yet again, though it is said that he did stop off during one of his advances into new territory and buy kebabs for his men at a wayside travelling camel snack vendor one Thursday somewhere along the old Silk Road. So that might have been it.

Those who employed camels were inventive peoples, in their day. By night they were given to smoking opium and eating sweetmeats and drinking sherbert and doing unspeakable things to helpless nubiles and playing polo on their camels using the heads of their enemies for a ball. But by day, they were always inventing things.

The Bacterians, for example, who lived in the remote lands beyond the Hindu Kush, invented germs. These germs were useful to this nomadic race, though they caused havoc in the later walled cities of Europe. Interestingly, the plagues that so troubled the great cities of the West were predicted by Domestos, the Greek who taught at the University of Bacteria during the reign of Eucrapides, the great muck-spreading king who first observed the practice of fertilisation using dung.

Eucrapides was derided in his time for spreading dung on the lands of Bacteria, for there was nothing that we would call agriculture in those days. It is only now, when all the world spreads dung, and these spreaded dungs enter the world's watercourses, that the excremental legacy of Eucrapides is truly lauded.

These Bacterians also invented Numismatics, which is the study of Numisms. They are also the first peoples to have devised the heated camel. By an ingenious system of exterior piping made out of the hollowed horns and bones of the quisling, the now-extinct herbivore that once roamed the lush plains of the Pri-Ti Pol river, they were able to envelop a camel with warm air, which proved a boon to travellers in the harsh Bacterian winters.

Music had they but little, these denizens of the lands beyond the Hindu Kush, for they were not given to the arts of contemplation. The Muse of Terpsichore was always a stranger in their midst, these who preferred the sports such as ear-lopping, impalement upon great spikes, rape and buggery, and of course bathing in yak's butter.

And yet, they did compose haunting melodies upon the Juk-Juk, the two-stringed instrument made from the skulls of children; and they would blow their Minj Horns late into the star-studded Bacterian nights. The Song of the Minj Trumpet is said to have been enough to make a butcher woman weep, in the old Bacterian vernacular, which is praise unparalleled in the modern world, for all its famous stars such as Nana Mouskouri.

It is very sad that the art of the Minj Blower will never be experienced again. The Minj was driven out of Bacteria as the dung-spreading practices of Eucrapides gathered pace, and the last pocket of resistance was finally severed in the Filthii foothills of Dirtistan in the 17th century when the last Minj was hunted down by Shiftii tribesmen.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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