I have been traveling a fair bit in the Middle East, and though it may seem like a stereotype – I can honestly tell you that there are thousands of camels everywhere. It doesn’t take long being around the creatures that you find you really start to like them.
They have been referred to as “ships of the desert” and have for thousands of years, performed a very important role in parts of the world that can be extremely inhospitable to life. I have since learned that camels can live for more than 25 years and are very tolerant of heat (duh) but, can also function just fine in cold weather as well.
We were recently in Jordan in an area known as the Wadi Rum, a beautiful, vast desert area that is most known for its association with T.E. Lawrence, on whom the movie Lawrence of Arabia was based. It was a cold morning just above freezing and we approached our camels bundled up and barely awake and they looked at us as if to say, “Great, more tourists…”
We had a two hour ride through the desert and it took me the first hour just to figure out how to get comfortable sitting up there. Our guide, a man from Egypt who has been in the area for the past ten years, showed me how to sit with one leg crossed over the front of the saddle in front of you. Once I did that and found a good balance, not only was it easier for me to take photos as I was not bouncing around so much, but my butt was happier as well.
I am clearly not the first person in history to develop an affinity for these funny looking creatures. As evidence of that, on our ride that morning, our guide pointed out some petroglyphs carved into the rock face that showed many camels. These were carved by the Nabateans, an ancient people who inhabited many parts of the Middle East from the B.C.s into the first century (in fact – they were responsible for creating Petra). So there was proof, literally set in stone, that I was not the first!
So why have I come to like camels…? Well, in no particular order, here are a few reasons:
1. They just have that laid-back attitude that seems to say, “Whatever…”
2. They look really funny
3. The have an attitude that seems to say, “Fine, I’ll do it, not because you asked me to, but because I have nothing better to do”
4. They have long necks, big humps, long legs and well… just look funny
5. When you ride them they sway so much that you can’t help but have fun on them because you know you look so ridiculous
6. Did I mention they are full of attitude…?
7. And… they look funny! They just make you smile. I guess because they are sort of the “ugly ducklings” of the quadruped world – they have to have an attitude!
One of the events I went to while in the UAE was a festival during which there was a camel beauty pageant (I am not joking!) During this event I saw many, many camels and while my eye was not trained to be able to make an aesthetic judgement, there were several locals who enthusiastically showed me what to look for. I was also shocked to learn that the winner of the pageant can then often sell for somewhere between two to six million dollars! Yes you read that right, millions of dollars!
I am not sure where my travels will take me next, and if I will ever spend so much time around camels as I have in the past six months, but when I see them in movies, photos, or on TV I will most certainly think back to a time in my life when I saw more camels than people and how those funny looking creatures just made me smile (the camels not the people…)!