The animal leaped forward. Adam looked back and gasped. An enormous wall of whirling, burning yellow dust was bearing down on them at frightening speed. It was gaining on them so rapidly that it seemed to be just an arm’s length away. Adam and Justin leaned over their saddles and clung to their camels’ necks. The usually indolent beasts were suddenly galvanized into action. They galloped along like racehorses, with their necks outstretched and their ears flattened back. It was as if they understood the terrible danger just behind them.
“It’s a sandstorm!” Adam yelled.
The howling wind whipped his words away and Justin just shook his head to show he couldn’t hear. Ahead of them, the men were looking back, beckoning, and yelling, but the shriek of the sandstorm drowned out their voices. The camels threw their long legs forward as they strained to run faster. Sand swirled in eddies around their thudding feet. Already the stinging gusts of grit-laden air were whipping the four figures. The sand scoured their skin as the wind battered their fragile bodies. In seconds, their eyes began burning and their mouths filled with choking dust. The four frightened beasts thundered crazily across the dunes, their riders clinging like limpets to their backs. One of the men pointed to the left, toward a small rocky plateau and as the camels veered instinctively in that direction, the boys saw a narrow ravine plunging downward.
The wind shrieked as if in anger that its intended victims might escape. The four reached the ravine and scrambled down from the camels. The tall Egyptian grabbed the camel reins and led the way to where a low wall of pitted rock sloped back into a curve. He beckoned the boys to follow. The boys crouched close to the wall. The men pulled the camels down next to them so that the huge bodies formed a shield. Then they covered the animals’ heads with cloths. The camels knew what to do and lay still. The men gave the boys a gulp of water each from a bottle and arranged their head cloths to protect their faces. They pushed the boys down flat so that the two small figures were firmly sandwiched between the rocky wall and the camels’ bodies. Then they covered their own heads and ducked down with the boys.
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