CAMELS  
 

Camels are cud-chewing mammals of the family Camelidae , the order Artiodactyla , of which there are two species, the Camelus dromedarius central in the North Africa and the Middle East. while the other Camelus bactrianus is central to more eastern parts of Asia. Originally the camel came from North America some 10 million years ago, where it became extinct about 2 million years ago.

Domesticated thousands of years ago by frankincense traders, to make the long and arduous jounery from southern Arabia to the northern regions of the Middle East, the camel went on to become the desert dweller's  primary source of transport, shade, milk, meat, wool and hides.

Now there are no wild Camelus dromedarius in North Africa or the Middle East, in Australia, though not indigenous to the country they roam in big herds throughout the arid areas, belonging to no-one.

Camelus dromedarius , the only camel type found in the Sinai and used extensively by the Bedouin, is recognised for its single hump and short hair. It is about 2 metres high and 3 metres long when mature and can weigh up to 700Kg. It has two toes on each foot and thick sole pads, well fitted for crossing hot sand. Moreoever, it can alse its nostrils as protection against flying sand and its eyes are shielded by long eyelashes. When running, the camel moves both legs on one side in a parallel manner. The camel carries a food reserve in tis hump consisting of fatty tissue. The camel can survive on little or not water for long periods [depending on the time of year and amount of green fodder to be found]. It can also utilise salty vegetation, bite off and consume thorny plants living in the desert. Contrary to other mammals, the camel can survive losses of water equalling 25% of its body weight. The urine of the camel is highly concentrated. When the camel comes across water, it is capable of consuming enormous quantities, The camel can take extremes in temperature, both hot and cold.

The economical importance of camels has disappeared to a large extent, compared to pre-modern times, when it was used in caravans, for transportation and subsidiary for its meat and milk. Its wool is used for clothes, and the manure is used for fuel after being dried. In these time, the camel was also a symbol of status and wealth. Modern times have not been able to provide for new forms of usage for the camel and even its meat is considered less attractive than lamb and beef. The total number of camels has been reduced, but in some countries the camel is returning as an animal of leisure and hobby. In large areas of the Sahara the camel is still a condition for human survival.

To appreciate the unique contribution that the Arabian camel has made to the people and history of desert lands, there's a comprehensive fact-pack on the special characteristics, body structure and behaviour patterns of this amazing creature.

Ata Allah
God's gift - The Bedouin name for Camelus dromedarius , also known as the Arabian camel.

Behaviour
Unpredictable at best. Camels have the reputation of being bad-tempered and obstinate creatures who spit and kick. In reality, they tend to be good-tempered, patient and intelligent. The moaning and bawling sound they make when they're  loaded up and have to rise to their feet, is like the grunting and heavy breathing of a weight-lifter in action, not a sign of displeasure at having to do some work.

Body Temperature
Camels do not pant, and they perspire very little. Humans start to sweat when the outside temperature rises above the normal body temperature of 37 o C, but the camel has a unique body thermostat. It can raise its body temperature tolerance level as much as 6 o C before perspiring, thereby conserving body fluids and avoiding unnecessary water loss. No other mammal can do this. Because the camel's body temperature is often lower than air temperature, a group of resting camels will even avoid excessive beat by pressing against each other.

Colour
Camels come in every shade of brown, from cream to almost black.

Food
A camel can go 5-7 days with little or no food and water, and can lose a quarter of its body weight without impairing  its normal functions. These days, camels rely on man for their preferred food of dates, grass and grains such as wheat and oats, but a working camel travelling across an area where food is scarce can easily survive on thorny scrub or whatever it can find - bones, seeds, dried leaves, cardboard cartons, it's own droppings or even its owner's tent.

Height
a fully-grown  adult camel stands 1.85m/6 feet at the shoulder and 2.1m/7feet at the hump.

Life Span
After a gestation period of 13 months, a camel cow usually bears a single calf, and occasionally twins. The calves walk within hours of birth, but remain close to their mothers until they reach maturity at five years of age. The normal life span of a camel is 40 years, although a working camel retires from active duty at 25.

Meat
The best camel meat comes from young male camels. It is regarded as a delicacy in the Arabian diet, and is gaining popularity in arid lands where it is difficult to herd sheep, cattle and goats. Although it makes for touch chewing, the taste is not unlike beef.

Speed
Normal 'amble speed' for a walking camel is 5kph/3mph, about the same as a human being - a working camel will typically cover 40km/25miles a day. Racing camels can reach 20kph/12mph at the gallup and can sustain slightly slower speeds in races of over 30-40 minutes.

Water
Camels need very little water if their regular diet contains good, moisture-rich pasture. Although camels can withstand severe dehydration, a large animal can drink as much as 100 litres.21 gallons in ten minutes. Such an amount would kill another mammal, but the camel's unique metabolism enables the animal to store the water in its bloodstream.

Weight
A fully grown camel can weight up to 700kgs/1542lbs.

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