Families in Clermont County gathered around their Christmas trees and opened presents on Christmas morning but Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud spent a non-traditional kind of Christmas day riding a camel in Egypt.
“On Dec. 25 I spent the day at the Great Pyramids in Giza,” Proud said. “I can’t describe the pyramids except to say that they were quite impressive. While we were there I got to ride on a camel which was quite an experience. I can cross another thing off my bucket list.”
Proud arrived in Doha, Qatar at the invitation of his friend and former Clermont County Clerk of Court David Caudill, just in time for their annual National Day Parade.
While in Qatar, Proud was invited to attend a Bedouin Tribal Gathering of the al' Marri tribe. They are the largest tribe in the Arabian Peninsula and according to Proud very few Westerners get invited to this event.
"David introduced me to people in the tribe that he knew and I was brought into their circle of friends. It was a huge gathering of people," said Proud. "We have a misperception of people in the middle east. We think they hate us, but everywhere we went I was welcomed with open arms. They don't like our government, but they do like American people."
Caudill and his family invited Proud to go to Egypt with them to celebrate the holidays.
"I got an opportunity to go inside the pyramids," said Proud. "It was so amazing, they are huge and thousands of years old, we don't have anything to compare them with in our country. To be able to see the original hieroglyphics with their vibrant colors was amazing. We also visited Memphis and Saqqara."
While in Egypt, the group camped in the desert on New Year's Eve, took a dinner cruise down the Nile River and went dune bashing in a SUV.
"I got to experience so many new things," said Proud. "We were entertained by a whirling dervish and belly dancer while we dined on the Nile. I semi-crashed a wedding reception in my hotel and danced with the people at the party at their invitation. I visited a college where they are taught the art of oriental rug making and visited the oldest market place in Cairo."
Proud said that he loves to barter and enjoyed dickering over prices in the market places while in the mid-east. He also said that they visited a Hard Rock Cafe in Cairo, Egypt.
"I always get pulled pork when I go to Hard Rock Cafe, but this time I got pulled lamb and it was delicious," he said.
Proud spent three weeks in the middle east and noted that there is a high rate of traffic accidents because of the chaotic traffic laws.
"Our driver in Cairo was going down a four lane highway and missed the exit ramp," said Proud. "Around here if that happened we would go to the next ramp, turn around and come back, but not him. He backed about a half mile in all that traffic to get us back to the ramp. We were white-knuckled during that trip."
Proud also noted that gas prices in the middle east average about 86 cents per gallon.
Although the airplane trip to Qatar and back home was filled with delays and layovers, Proud said the delays and changes in flights gave him an opportunity to see more sights.
"When I had to take a different flight on the trip over because of delays, I got to see the world's tallest building in Dubai," he said. "I hadn't planned on that and coming back home we were routed through Amsterdam, Holland. I met a service man from New York and another one from Canada. I got to go to a lot of places I thought I'd never be, but it took me 35 hours to get home."
"It was the trip of a lifetime. Going to the middle east makes you appreciate the luxury and freedoms that we have in the U.S.," he said. "We are indeed a blessed country but we don't see it until we see other places that are not so blessed."
Caudill's next post will be in Baghdad, Iraq in July. He has invited Proud to come for a visit and Proud says he is seriously considering it.