What do you know about camels?

Caravan, Egypt

When people all over the world think of Egypt, they think of the Pyramids with a graceful caravan of camels passing by them. It is a romantic dream of many people to view such a caravan. Before my trips to Egypt, I saw camel few times in the Zoo. I never found it too interesting nor lovely creature.

My first, real contact with camel was last month, in Dahab, on our way to Ras Abu Gallum. That day, I totally fell in love in this sweet, patient, uncomplaining and in many ways remarkable animal. So here's a short story about "nature's true nomads" :)

Perhaps nowhere else on earth is more associated with the camel than the Arabian Peninsula.The camel has played such an important role in Arab culture that there are over 160 words for "camel" in the Arabic language!

Taken at Sakara Area, Giza, Egypt—a love story between the man and his camel
Arabian camels, also known as dromedaries, have only one hump, but they employ it to great effect. The hump stores up to 80 pounds (36 kilograms) of fat, which a camel can break down into water and energy when sustenance is not available. These humps give camels their legendary ability to travel up to 100 desert miles (161 kilometers) without water. Camels rarely sweat, even in desert temperatures that reach 120°F (49°C), so when they do take in fluids they can conserve them for long periods of time. In winter, even desert plants may hold enough moisture to allow a camel to live without water for several weeks. When camels do refill, however, they soak up water like a sponge. A very thirsty animal can drink 30 gallons (135 liters) of water in only 13 minutes. Camels prefer to walk; however, they can run at a speed of 10-20 mph (16-32 kph). They have excellent eyesight and smell, which can make wild camels hard to approach.

Arabian camels have been domesticated for approximately 3,500 years and have been long valued as pack animals. They can carry large loads for up to 25 miles (40 kilometers) a day. Today, nearly all of the world's camels are domestic animals. 

Young Bedouin boys represent their tribes racing camels in this annual event north of Dahab, Sinai, Egypt. Ten thousand Egyptian pounds in prize money await the winner. Camels are entered according to age and ability, the final seeing racing camels valued at 20,000 Egyptian pounds and the running of a 16-kilometer desert race.

While having a reputation for being an unpleasant, the camel is actually a friendly animal. A distressed camel will spit a noxious stream of stomach contents, but generally a camel is a pleasant, hard working, intelligent animal. So ride your camel with respect! :D

Egyptian boy and his camels, Dahab, Egypt
And just an advice about how to ride a camel:Camels are not horses. Do not try to sit astride it like it is one.

Watch the way your guide rides. Scoot all the way up to the saddle horn so it is flush against your abdomen and place your legs towards/on the downward slope leading to the neck of the camel. Hook your right leg upward a bit and get comfortable.

This may seem unstable when you first take yourself out of sitting astride, but there is a reason the locals ride this way. Give yourself two minutes sitting astride a camel in horseback fashion and you'll end up limping the rest of your trip.

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