I make her put on sunglasses and a baseball cap in the airport toilets, and bundle her onto the plane. I've given her a sleeping tablet and she begins to doze before we leave the tarmac. At least she's stopped crying now. The plane takes off and I start to breathe again. I watch over her as she sleeps, while we slip through the sky.
We land on the other side, the plane bumps and jolts as it taxis to the terminal. As soon as we get out of the plane into the hot thick atmosphere, the bedlam begins. The people are all around us, pushing and pulling, obstructing our way. I have my left arm protectively around her. She is still woozy from the tablet, and stumbles. She leans into my side and I wrap my other arm around her head. "If she can't see them, they can't see her" I try and convince myself.
The clamour avalanches around us. Cameras flash - dazzling us. I say nothing in reply to the rude questions and shouted insults, but just try to push through this human wall of bodies. Eventually I spot him, and he grabs her other arm. We pull her into his car and drive off, leaving this angry hub of energy behind.
We speed over the smooth tarmac, out of the town now, past the wild sandy slopes with scratchy, sparse shrubs. There are no other cars in sight. A camel casually wanders over the road, and we slow to a stop in front of him. He sways gently as he sniffs the air and regards us through long, thick lashes. Then he ambles over towards the shade from the outcrops on the other side of the valley and we start to move on again.
The heat is intense. Even with the window open, it's hot - like having a huge hair-dryer roaring in your face. She's gone to sleep again, head swaying gently as we go over small bumps, wisps of hair caught in the breeze. "She needs it," I think, "It will be a long drive."
(c) Kate Rontree 2002