When you think of pyramids, do you think of the great pharaohs’ tombs in the Egyptian deserts? I do. Did you ever associate a pyramid with a camel driver and the Arizona desert? Never.
Surprisingly, there is actually a pyramid in the desert town of Quartzsite. It is constructed from the stones found in the area and topped with a copper camel which seems to be peering out into the far reaches of the Arizona desert. This landmark is the grave of Gadhu Ali, an Arab camel driver. He was known as “Hi Jolly” because that is how his foreign name sounded to Arizona desert people. According to the Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce, the pyramid is one of the most visited spots in the southwest and the centerpiece of the town cemetery.
Hi Jolly came from his native land of Syria as a camel driver hired by the US Army during the mid- 1850’s. He brought with him 100 or more North African camels. The U.S. Army ordered the creatures as beasts of burden for a desert experiment, a failed experiment. As it turned out, the camels and Army’s mules were incompatible so the plan was abandoned in 1864. The Army auctioned off most of the camels and Hi Jolly kept a few to start his own enterprise. For awhile, he ran a freighting business between the Colorado River port cities and mining camps. In 1868, he too abandoned the use of camels. He turned his last camel loose near Gila Bend, Arizona and then went to work as a prospector and scout.
Hi Jolly died in 1902. And, in 1935, the Governor of Arizona dedicated the pyramid which marks Hi Jolly’s gravesite in Quartzsite. This landmark, though small compared to the Egyptian pyramids, is a grand tribute to Hi Jolly, a man who holds a unique and little known place in U.S. history.
January 27, 2009
One mile west of Business Loop 10 (Main Street, Quartzsite)
From the intersection of SR 95 and B-10