View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

10 Reasons to Pet or Ride a Camel When You Visit the Emirates

If you’re visiting the UAE there are many reasons for taking time to pet or ride one of the 250,000 camels that live in the country.

1. Much Loved
If you wonder why Emiratis are into expensive cars and number plates it is because their cars, so loved and respected, are like their modern-day camels.

While cows might be called ‘yearlings’ and ‘heifers’ to denote their development, the cherishing of camels is evident by the number of names they are given.

A pregnant camel is called Medni. The mother of a small camel is often called Gahor but when the small camel becomes bigger the mother is called Hayel and then Ozoof.

A camel is called Hewar up to 1 year, Fateem for a camel who is 2 years, Haj for a camel who is 3 years, Liggi for a camel who is 4 years, Yethea for a camel who is 5 years and Thani for a camel who is up to 6 years.

A male camel up to 6 years is called Baeer while Nagah is the name used for females of the same age.

So many names for this one that is called in Arabic ‘jamal’ (جمل). So much love.

2. Quintessentially Arab
For thousands of years camels have played an important part in Arab heritage and their prominence today represents a unique way of understanding and treasuring the Arab/Emirati culture.

Much of the charm in the legendary, Arabian Sands, derives from William Thesiger’s stories about the Bedu and their camels. His chronicles from the Empty Quarter are the result of patient reflections from the top of a camel. He writes admiringly of the Bedu’s ability to study the tracks of the camels and to discern so much information from the tone and texture of old camel droppings.

3. Objects of Beauty
Camels are viewed as objects of beauty which is why the UAE holds each year the mazayina, an international beauty contest for camels. While true value cannot be measured in monetary terms it is amazing to consider that a record Dh15 million (US$4 mill) was paid for a camel in 2008.

4. National Sport
Camel racing is the national sport of the UAE with the season running in the winter months from September to April. Most (74%) of the camels in the Emirates are females because historically these have been preferred for racing. The most loved leaders of the UAE have participated in camel racing as owners, riders and patrons.

Check out these directions that indicate where you can see camels being trained and run alongside the road from Dubai to Fujairah, this link for information about Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba Racecourse and this article about Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba racetrack (two of more than 15 tracks in the country).

Camel racing has for many years in the UAE been the subject of human rights abuses over the deployment of child jockeys but the allegations have been accepted, generous compensation has been paid and this chapter in the history of the Emirates has now been put into the past.

5. Emergence of Camelology
Because of their importance to Arab heritage, the study of the behavior of camels is developing in the UAE. According to a scientific report, the UAE has one of the greatest densities of camels in the world which is damaging the plant cover in the desert and in turn, decimating the populations of smaller native animals.

6. Camel in a Test Tube
If you remember Dolly the sheep you will need to know about Injaz (meaning ‘achievement’) the camel. The UAE holds the record for cloning the first camel in the world.

7. Emirati Souvenir
Camels are an authentic souvenir of your time in the Emirates. Check out the price of this one in Fujairah. Or some mementos a little more manageable and refined are glorious UAE scenes like this, which are available on prints, posters and cards.

8. Try Camel Milk
You need to have a refreshing taste of camel milk as the UAE is now selling a product in most supermarkets called Camelicious. It has high nutritional value and is packed with anti-ageing qualities. Check out my review and see what it is doing for me.

If the idea of camel milk on your breakfast cereal takes some getting used to, try the new line of camel milk chocolate. Again, it’s another souvenir idea to take home and it comes in segments with one or two humps in the middle of the bar!

9. They Are Amusing
Apart from the facial contortions of a camel having lunch, the derogatory definition that “a camel is a horse designed by a committee,” and the extensive body of YouTube footage depicting the marathon gyrations and high decibels of camels trying to perpetuate their species, there are two famous camels that have made magazine history. On the various lists of the best magazine covers, the 10-16 September 1994 edition of The Economist had a controversial cover photograph of two camels copulating, and the caption read, ‘The Trouble With Mergers’.

10. They Are Adorable
If you need any more encouragement to pat or ride a camel in the Emirates, check out this amazing sequence of photographs of a camel playing with a bin. After you see this adorable specimen, you’ll want to take a camel home for a pet.

So Get Taken for a Ride
An Internet search will give you lots of leads for one minute rides or desert safaris. Most UAE hotels will offer information on the petting or riding of camels whether you are staying in Al Ain, Hatta, Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

In London you must climb on a double-decker bus. In Bangladesh it’s good to ride a rickshaw. In Sri Lanka you take a tuk-tuk. But in the United Arab Emirates you haven’t travelled unless you have ridden a camel.

Check out my other site Fujairah in Focus for this new article:

You Can't Visit Fujairah Without Watching World Famous Bull Butting, FIF.

Dr Geoff Pound

Contact Geoff Pound at this email address: geoffpound(at) or on Facebook. He is a freelance writer who is eager to write for you or help you create your important speech.

Image: “Check out this amazing sequence of a camel playing with a bin.”