Camels paint a picture of this majestic animal walking through the dunes and dry arid land. The pad feet animal, well suited to desert life has captured the imagination of people from all walks of life making it one of nature’s signature marks. Apart from being these fascinating animals equally for children and adults, they carry an important connection to different human civilizations and cultures throughout history. Important to an extent that without its existence it is pure to say that ‘the story of Arabian Peninsula could not have been rewritten’. Ranging from being domesticated to being used as a pack animal, the use of camels quickly spread across the world. On that account let’s take a look through the camel trials around the world.
The ship of the desert
The earliest domestication of camels took place in Arabian land as transportation access across the desert terrains. A camel trial established it as the most docile and easily managed herbivore. The hardy animal can silently pad through the wobbly contours of an erg and its hump helps them to travel without food or water for days. Loyal and low maintenance it can surely be termed as the cheapest mode of travel as well as fuel efficient. But the advancement in technology with freight trains and trailer trucks has rendered camels largely obsolete as a means of transport. As noted by Mansour Fares Hussein, a university teacher in the New York Times article- Desert Sun Sets on the Camel’s Glory Days, camels played a vital role in the spread of Islam beyond the Arabian Peninsula and an important part in the story of humankind for over 3000 years yet the era of camels as a means of transport has come to an end. Despite these camels continue to intrigue the people.
Medieval trading caravans
The most important in the camel trials was the use of camels for trade across the civilizations.
The perfect logo for trade, Camels mainly the one- humped dromedary commonly known as the Arabian camel is the most suited as it is custom- tailored to negotiate the hot climate the deserts offer. Whereas, the two- humped Bactrian camel traipse across the colder deserts and central Asia that did keep its sway during the golden period of the Old Silk Road. Considered a symbol of wealth and prosperity, Camels were used extensively in the ancient trade routes that crossed the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa as they could carry heavy loads and survive in harsh climates without food or water. The camels are always attached to each other as they need to be constantly directed. The Head camel, mostly a female camel will be driven by the camel driver.
Another camel trail around the world is camel tourism. Camels were a common tourist attraction in the Middle East and North Africa and have their roots in the desert regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Haryana. Most of the tourist attractions consist of camel rides as they leisurely take a stroll on the desert appreciating the scenery and the thrill of riding a camel. Often accompanied by a tourist guide, this also plays a major role in the spread of awareness about camels and their historic as well as current importance to the outside world. In Rajasthan happens the infamous Pushkar camel fair, an annual 5-day fest where apart from trading camels, they organize different competitions to take part with your camels. There are also camel treks involving multiple days in the desert and a stop at different points of interest and a conversation with the desert people to understand their tradition and culture involving camel. There are zoological institutions that provide awareness of camels, their habits, and conservation efforts.
Meat and Milk Production
This camel trail happened as a result of the commercialization of camels. Humans prized camel as the primary source of meat and milk initially before exploring its other uses. A vital element and chief source of Raw materials and food source in the daily life of a Bedouin. The desert dwellers drank its milk and feasted on its meat till recent times. Apart from a food source, the thick wool from its coat is used as the raw material to make ropes and its skin to make water buckets and shields for their nomadic life. In addition to these, People even explored the fuel and medicinal value of camel droppings. For instance, the hump of a camel is found to have an immediate effect on dysentery, and its marrow for diphtheria and epilepsy. Despite their different uses, they remain an important food source to many people with their meat considered a delicacy in some cultures and their milk having extreme nutritional value. Indian breed – Gujrati camel yields the highest quantity of milk.
Along with other camel trials the textile industry mainly uses camel wool which is prized for its softness and durability. The wools are obtained during the spring molting season when they naturally shed their wool and are then cleaned, carded, and spun into yarn to be used in various clothing materials. Camel leather is known for its strength and durability and is mainly used for shoes, belts, and bags. The camel hair at times is mixed with other fibers such as wool and silk that further extends and improve its properties making it versatile. This results in a luxurious soft textile that is most popular in the fashion industry.
Military and War
The camel trials were used as a defense strategy. Even Julius Caesar considered camels to be the greatest treasure from war. During the Roman period, the East Romans used camel in combat to scare off horses. It was Maharaja Ratan Singh of Bikaner who founded the first camel corps against the British in the First Afghan War. Even though later dismantled after Among the Indian breeds- Bikaneri and Jaisalmeri, the Bikaneri is known for its strength and is employed on the battlefield while Jaisalmeri known for its speed is used for patrolling. It was the Arabs who realized and developed the full potential of a camel in battlefield or in domestication. During a battle even though the attacks were made on horseback once the saddle was developed, they became equally tactical. Because of camels, Arab armies could move swiftly and unexpectedly without being attacked by distant foes. Given these vital roles played by camels, it is true to say that history would have been different with no camels.
The camel trial evolved from the battlefield in the competitions and entertainment that involves camels. Camel racing is a popular sport in various parts of the Middle East and Australia, where young camels are driven by child jockeys. Due to the concerns about child jockeys, this has later been replaced by robotic jockeys. Apart from the riding competition is the beauty contest popular in North Africa, where camels are judged on their physical appearances and prizes are awarded to the best among the participants. This happens during any local festive season and is a pride for the camel owners.
The chief camel trial around the world was the use of camels as pack animals for the transportation of heavy loads across the desert region. Known as the beast of burden due to its strength and speed, a camel could carry more heavy loads than an elephant without any food or water for many straight days. The camel had a much longer working life and was used by the Arabs till the development of the road. Camel cavalry is the use of camel as a pack animal to be used to transport arms in desert warfare.
Camel trail culture in India is globally unique due to its traditional taboo on using camels for meat. The Rakia community from Rajasthan is closely associated with camel alongside the Rajputs, Muslims, Jats, and Sindhi who breeds camels in India. Raika Community observed these taboos on selling the camel for its meat, milk and even selling a female camel. The only product that was allowed to be sold was a male camel and it happens during the Pushkar camel fair. The decline of a male camel as a worker, the camel has resulted in its disappearance that resulted in an automatic dip in the Indian camel population. Different Indian communities have different stories that tell the origin of camels in India. Among the Arabs even in India, camels are the image of wealth and prosperity.
In conclusion, Camels have played an important role in developing human history and civilization. With its uses ranging from transportation to raw materials and food sources, camels have proved to be a valuable resource in different parts of the world. Even with the reduced use of camels in the modern world, they remain a versatile animal that offers a unique and memorable experience for the people.
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