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Sam’s adopted Arabian camels!

Sam has been a lover of camels since he was a child. He enjoys visiting his camel friends here in Saudi Arabia.

Samuel Shropshire has been a lover of camels since he was a child. He enjoys visiting his camel friends here in Saudi Arabia.

Updated 6 June 2015… 

Sam with his adopted camel "Leila" in the Arabian desert near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Sam with his adopted camel “Leila” in the Arabian desert near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

My adopted friends!

When my Saudi friend, Ra’id Baty, heard that I was interested in camels, he invited me to go to his family’s farm, about 30 miles outside Jeddah. I’ve always been interested in legends and stories about camels—as told in the Bible or in historical narratives about Marco Polo and the famous Silk Road. When I was a child, my mother would read to me from The Adventures of Marco Polo.  I remember being enamored by the colorful pictures of camel caravans. I began collecting camel toys and figures–big and small, plastic, wooden, leather, etc.

Camel facts–“ships of the desert”

   The camel has a single hump;
     The dromedary, two.
   Or else, the other way around.
     I’m never sure. Are you?    (“The Camel” by Ogden Nash)

Well, it is the other way round! There are two kinds of camels: (1) the Arabian camel, also called dromedary, which has one hump, and (2) the Bactrian camel, which has two humps. In the past, hybrids (crossbreeds) of the two species were used widely in Asia. These hybrid camels had one extra-long hump and were larger and stronger than either of their parents.

Camels have been domesticated for thousands of years. The dromedaries may once have lived wild in Arabia, but none of them live in the wild today. There are several million Arabian camels, and today most of them live with the desert people of Africa and Asia. A well-bred Arabian can sell for millions of dollars! Known as “the ship of the desert,” the camel has in past centuries caravanned heavy burdens for thousands of miles along African and Asian trade routes. You can easily argue that international trade was founded on the backs of camels.

Number one “green animal”

Sam with camels in South Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Sam with camels in South Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo / John Elliot)

The Qur’an asks Muslims to consider the camel as symbolic of God’s wonders in creation. Surah (chapter) 88, verse 17 says, “Do they not look at camels and how they are made?” Yes, God indeed came up with an incredible design for the camel! It’s a marvelous creature. It is the foremost “green animal” in the world. It recycles practically all its liquids in a very unique fashion.

The camel’s nostrils are designed to trap large amounts of water vapor as it exhales—returning the water to its body fluids. Its kidneys have a remarkable ability to recycle water. When it urinates, it produces a thick syrupy material which is said to have homeopathic abilities. (Now think of that the next time you pay $10 for a tiny tube of triple-antibiotic ointment! Maybe there’s a market for camel urine?)

When this beast of burden defecates, its dung is dry! It can be used for building fires, cooking and keeping warm, very much like those Duraflame fire logs we use in our fireplaces! And the camel’s milk is not only nutritious, it is also said to have curative powers. Its red blood cells are not designed as other mammals. They are oval, not round, and thus they are able to swell, and not burst, when the camel takes in large amounts of water.

A full-grown camel can drink 35 to 40 gallons of water at a time and not need to drink again for months. Its hump doesn’t store water (a common myth), but it contains nutritiously rich, fatty deposits. Because this fat is concentrated in the hump it shields the camel’s body from the desert sun. For camels, everything is adapted for life in the desert. Their feet are broadened to walk on sand. The huge feet of camels help them to walk on sand without sinking into it. A camel’s foot can be as big as a large plate.The camel’s long legs also prevent the animal’s main torso from being terribly affected by the reflected heat of the desert sands.

Muhammad and the “crying camel”

Islam, contrary to the beliefs of some, is a religion that greatly respects life in all its forms. The prophet Muhammad told his companions many stories encouraging kindness to animals. He spoke kind-heartedly about camels as “God’s beings.” He taught that camels, along with all animals, must be treated with gentleness and care. (In Islam, this respect for life, extends to plants as well:  “Even looking after plants and trees is an act of virtue.”)

We should note that King Solomon in the Old Testament Proverbs expressed similarly, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10). Muhammad is said to have voiced his concern for a “crying camel.” According to Anas bin Malik, one of Muhammad’s close companions, the prophet came across a camel tied to a post. The animal looked desperately malnourished. As Muhammad approached, the camel began to speak to the prophet. Sobbing, the camel complained, “My master overburdens me. I’m never given sufficient food or water. When I am weak and barely able to walk, he beats me. I can hardly bear this difficult life.”

It’s told that Muhammad searched out the owner, and exhorted him, “Don’t you fear God because of your poor treatment of this camel?” The prophet explained that God had given the camel into the man’s care, and he had a duty to treat the camel well. Humbly the owner accepted Muhammad’s rebuke and immediately repented, declaring loudly before all who were present, “I have done wrong.” He promised the prophet that he would extend greater care to all his camels.

Fresh camel milk is soon coming to a store near you!

Camelicious milk is already at local supermarkets here. Exporting is now underway to nearby countries and several  European markets.

Fresh camel’s milk is already being mass produced at the Camelicious camel farm in Dubai. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has invested significantly to make sure all Arabian people have access to quality camel milk.

Creamy and nutritionally rich, camel milk has been a common sight on the shelves of UAE supermarkets since 2006, and it’s now being exported. It is said to be higher in protein, potassium, iron and vitamin C than cow’s milk, yet it contains just half the fat and less than half the cholesterol. It’s also said to be low in lactose. According to Dr. Nisar A. Wani, the head of reproductive biology at Dubai’s state-run Camel Reproduction Centre, camel milk can boost immunity.

Thanks to the camel’s “nanobodies” (antibodies unique to camels), it’s a virtual healing center on hoofs. Wani has great hopes for the future. He envisions genetically modified camels as “walking pharmacies” serving up milk that can be used both to prevent and treat health problems such as gastric ulcers, arthritis and blood-related ailments. Camel milk is now available in strawberry, chocolate, date and saffron flavors. But why stop at milk? Al Nassma is a Dubai-based company that makes camel-milk chocolates, and Starbucks coffee shops here on the Arabian peninsula have already included camel milk in their beverage lineup.

In Dubai you are greeted by the local Starbucks’ staff, “Have you tried our new camel-chino?” And, be sure, they come in short, tall, grande or venti sizes! Here’s a short video about camels! A Saudi businessman talks about his herd:

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May 21, 2012 - Posted by | Animal Rights, Arabian Desert, Geography | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Ah, Sam, your new best friend. Have you got one that follows you around yet? US distribution of Camel’s milk. Now that is an interesting proposition. We haven’t seen a push for camels since that cigarette came out in the 1950’s. Cheers, Marina

    Comment by Marina Bühler-Miko | May 22, 2012 | Reply

  2. Yes, “Leila” is my sweetheart. She follows me everywhere.

    Comment by Sam Shropshire | May 22, 2012 | Reply

  3. Great information, SAm. We’ll look for camel’s milk here!! I”m always learning from you. Mardy

    Comment by Mardy Burgess | May 23, 2012 | Reply


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