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Desert Survival

For a nomadic people movement with the seasons is crucially important. Bedouins often need to travel vast distances and with no permanent dwellings they must carry all their belongings with them.

The Bedouins found the answer to their problems in a four legged animal that carry great cargo, walk for miles and travel for days without refuelling - the camel.

The Arabian camel or dromedary is the ultimate desert transport and has been a fixture in the desert since time immemorial. The animal was first domesticated in Arabia and was then taken to North Africa, India, Pakistan and Australia.

Camels are superbly designed for desert conditions. They can go up to eight days without a drink of water and are able to conserve moisture as they have the ability to raise their body temperatures by 6 °C before they start to sweat. They also save water by producing concentrated urine and dry dung.

Camels also store food and can survive on the fat stored in their humps. Long eyelashes provide shade from the sun and keep sand out of the eyes as do closeable nostrils. Not even a sandstorm will stop a camel.

As fast as a pack horse and able to carry three times the cargo (up to 600 lbs), a camel lives for around 40 years. They feed on almost anything, their razor sharp teeth cutting through the thorniest of desert vegetation.

Thick padded hooves not only endure hot sand and hard rocky ground but also prevent sinking in soft sand. Their legs are also immensely powerful and can be used in self-defence. Thick patches of hard skin have developed on the knees and chest where pressure is greatest as it sits and stands.

Racing camels can average speeds of 33kmh over 10km race. Camels can cover anything up to 100 miles in a day.

Camels are worth a great deal of money in Arabia. They are seen as transportable wealth - the only kind amongst the Bedouin. Prize camels are decorated with brightly coloured, embroidered and ornate regalia - often using shells, beads and mirrors - and the animal is held in high regard in local culture.

Wonderfully elaborate camel saddles take pride of place in the Bedouin home when not in use during weddings and festivals. Camel riders also adorn themselves with necklaces, pom-poms and sheepskin.

A camel is essential to surviving in the desert, afterall, they've been doing it for centuries.

Water | Food | Shelter | Clothing | Transportation | Navigation | Hospitality

Camels: ultimate desert transportation
  Camels are essential  

Lawrence of Arabia