Trail Notes: The Prince

Trail Notes: The Prince

A Saudi Prince joins Paul for lunch at a beach camp. His walking guide, Mohamad Banounah, prepares a great feast for the Prince and his companions.


5 - 12


Social Studies, English Language Arts, Geography, Storytelling, Anthropology

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In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of Paul Salopek's first steps on his Out of Eden Walk journey, this dispatch is now available for educational use in fifth- and eighth-grade reading levels. The original text is available as the default reading level, as well as on the Out of Eden Walk website.

By Paul Salopek

EL REIS, SAUDI ARABIA (11/10/2023)

“You want to give the prince canned corn?” asks my walking guide, Mohamad Banounah.

He is surprised and can’t quite believe what I am saying. He is tired of explaining things to me. He decides to take matters into his own hands. This is surely a good thing for His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. Prince Sultan is the oldest son of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He is no mere prince, though. He is a well-educated man, an experienced pilot, a lover of Saudi history, and an extraordinary traveler in his own right. He is the first Arab, the first Muslim, and the first royal in the world to visit outer space. As president of the Saudi Commission on Tourism and Antiquities, he is visiting our beach camp. I have just suggested to Banounah that he share our lunch from the camel bags.

I argue that he is coming for a genuine experience.

Banounah shakes his head sadly at my lack of understanding. He tells me to go write. He gets busy.

The corn was Banounah’s idea. We needed a high-calorie food item that would appeal to everyone in our traveling group: Saudi tastes, Sudanese tastes, and American tastes. Banounah’s solution was cans of whole-kernel sweet corn. It can be eaten at any temperature. It can easily be eaten straight from the can while you walk. But some members of our group won’t touch the stuff. Even Banounah dislikes it. And I am tired of it, too, though my stomach isn’t picky. We carry many pounds of canned corn north through the Hejaz desert. Our camel bags sag with this wonder food. Perhaps we can trade it in Jordan, as an unusual item, for something more appealing.

“You have a very nice camp,” Prince Sultan says eight hours later. He has just landed on the beach in a helicopter. He is a serious and friendly man who is curious about the world he viewed from a space shuttle in 1985.

From the landing zone, we walk to a large, open tent that Banounah has set up next to the water. It has fine red carpets that Banounah has unrolled onto the sand. Banounah has placed plush pillows at various spots in the shade. He has brewed dozens of cups of tea and coffee for the prince’s staff. He produced platters of dates and set up washbasins with a small bottle of perfume for the hands. I am seeing most of these things for the first time. All of it, except for the two roast sheep Banounah bought from a nearby village, came from the back of Banounah’s dusty vehicle. That vehicle seems to hold most of the comfort items anyone could need in the early 21st century.

I strongly agree with Prince Sultan. We have a very nice camp.

Media Credits

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Oliver Payne
Text Levels
Web Producer
Bayan Atari, National Geographic Society
Instructional Designer
Dan Byerly, National Geographic Society
With help froms
Claudia Hernandez-Halper
Kate Gallery, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

January 22, 2024

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