The UAE is very well known for its attachment to camels which are of social and economic value in the emirates. In Arab cultures camels symbolise patience, tolerance and endurance.
A camel is known as the ship of the desert because of its walk, which is much like the motion of a ship at sea. Patience is one of its most observable features and camels are generally useful animals and are very peaceful, and rarely aggressive.
Camels in the UAE were a reliable source of transport, milk and sometimes meat in smaller quantities. Bedouins were proud of the number of camels they possessed. Camels were used in caravans and were loaded with various supplies like dates, food and wood. When running, a camel can reach a speed up to 40 mph in short bursts, 25 mph for longer periods of time and can carry up to 200 lbs on their back for distances in the heat.
Besides, they were used to transport people from the humid coast to cooler oases, during summer time.
Camels were given as a bride’s dowry among the Bedouin tribes and also used as a payment of Zakat, the annual portion of a Muslim’s personal fortune that is given as charity to people in need.
There are two kinds of camels. Arabian camels, also known as dromedaries, have only one hump which is employed to great effect. The hump stores up to 80 pounds 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 without water. Concentrating fat in their humps minimises insulation throughout the rest of the body, thus allowing camels to survive in such extreme hot regions. The Asian camel, also known as bactrian, has two humps.
In Arabic culture, a camel is assigned a different name every year of its age. For example, a one-year-old camel is called ‘Hewar’ while a two-year-old camel is called ‘Fateem’. The name keeps changing and the camel is known as ‘Haj’ when it is three years old.
The other names for the subsequent ages are ‘Liggi’ (four years old), ‘Yethea’ (five years old) and ‘Thani’ (six years old).
A male camel that is six years old can also be called ‘Baeer’ while a female camel of the same age can also be known as ‘Nagah’.
‘Misk’, ‘Dhabian’ and ‘Shtoota’ are the best-known breeds of Arabian camels found in the UAE.
Camels still have an important role in UAE society, with many Bedouin families still owning a few animals that provide milk and are sacrificed during festivals. Camel skin is used locally to make shoes, bags and water containers, while its wool, is used for clothes.
Camel racing is a very popular activity among UAE community and it is held annually during the winter months. This activity is based on the selected breed of non-dairy camel.
The Al Ain Camel Market is one place that best shows how much the UAE cares for the animals. Visiting this market, is a wonderful immersion in traditional Arab culture.