Wednesday, May 24, 2017


During a recent visit to Galilee, we ran across a herd of camels.  This was the first time while living in Israel that we were able to see them up close.  I grabbed my camera and started taking photos. 

Did you know that there are more than 14 million camels in the world and that most of them live in the Middle East, Asia and Australia?  There are two different types of camels: Dromedary Camels and Bractrion Camels. Dromedary Camels are also known as Arabian camels and the type you will see in this blog.

Camels are very social, even though they might seem extremely laid-back and slow. In the wild, they travel with around 30 others when looking for food.

Camel's humps are not used to store water as most people think.  Their humps actually store up to 80 pounds of fat and help the rest of their bodies stay cooler.  When needed, the fat can be converted to water.  Arabian camels have only one hump but Asian camels have two.  

We were surprised to see camels chomping the leaves of this tree and they reminded us of the giraffes we saw in Africa as they reached up to the higher leaves.  Camels will not damage their mouths if they eat thorny twigs and other items which might cause injury to other animals because of their thick lips.

We were so happy to see them walking freely and not tethered to a place where they were forced to stand all day long in the effort to attract tourists. 

Most of us know that camels notoriously spit at people but only do so if they feel threatened. They spit as a defense mechanism so if you are nice to camels, they'll be nice to you.  Camels will not damage their mouths if they eat thorny twigs and other items which might cause injury to other animals because of their thick lips.

Photo: Camels at the Treasury in Jordan.  Dromedary camels weigh between 650-1,300 pounds.  Camels are sometimes called “ships of the desert.” This is because they hold a lot of items to transport through the desert and can also carry up t0 900 pounds but usually loads around 400 pounds.  

Camels are 7 ft tall measuring from the top of their hump to their feet. They are intelligent, have good eyesight and hearing and live to be between 40 - 50 years old.  They have been domesticated for 5,000 years.

One of the sayings I grew up with was "the straw that broke the camel's back." For the younger people reading this blog, that phrase dates back to an Oriental Proverb in 1799. When my mother would say, "That's the last straw," I knew either my brother or I was in trouble because my mom was not going to put up with any more nonsense. . .   she had lost her patience!

Since Wednesday falls in the middle of the week, it is known as "Hump Day." The day is typically associated with a lack of ambition, creativity and motivation, even though it really just means the weekend is a mere two days away. If you're feeling low this hump day, then this quote that will pick you up: "When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment and I told them they didn't understand life." -John Lennon

The word ‘camel’ comes from an Arabic word: ǧml. This word is literally translated to mean "beauty." I don't think camels are beautiful but I certainly think they are cute! 

Camels need to stay hydrated in the desert and they can drink as much as 40 gallons of water at once. Considering it’s not being stored in their humps, that’s pretty amazing! The majority of mammals (including humans) only need to lose 15% of water before becoming dehydrated. However, camels are able to lose up to 25% which means they can go much longer without water.  The ability for camels to live off the fat in their humps allows them to go without food and water for a couple of weeks (depending on the temperature) if needed. In cooler climates, camels can go longer than in hot climates without food. When all the fat in the hump is used up, the hump will get smaller and even flop over on the camel's side.  

A camel’s mouth is split in two thick lips which allow them to eat thorny plants without getting hurt. A camel’s nostrils are amazing. They retain water vapor which can be returned to the body when necessary but they can also be closed if there is too much sand or wind blowing. 

A camel's pee is thick like syrup. A camels poop is really dry. During the Second World War, German tank drivers would drive their vehicles over camel droppings, thinking it would bring them good luck. I could say, "Oh, ____" but will refrain myself. 

Riding a camel has always been on my bucket list and now Garth and I can say we have ridden camels in Jordan and Egypt! It was great fun and surprisingly the ride was smoother than we had expected. The hardest part is hanging on when they stand up from a sitting position on the ground.

Camels aren’t as slow as they look – they can run up to speeds of 40mph. However, they cannot maintain this for very long, but can comfortably move at up to 25mph. They usually walk at a speed of 3 mph.

A camel might appear to have thick fur, but its coat reflects the sun. This makes it ideal in the hot desert so the camels don’t get too hot. 

A mother camel is pregnant for 13 months. They give birth to one calf and twins are rare.
Calves are sometimes born with white hair and weight about 90 pounds at birth. Their hair will turn brown as they get older. They drink their mother's milk.

The only time you will see a camel without a hump is when it is first born. Once the baby camel is old enough to eat solids, the hump will start growing. The camel in the photo above is only one day old. (The photos were taken from the internet)  

They say the world’s largest meal included a roasted camel and was served at an Arabic wedding feast. You can actually buy a camel milkshake in Abu Dhabi which is made from camel milk. Camel milk has more vitamin C and iron than cow's milk but less fat.

In Middle Eastern countries, many people eat camel and consider it a delicacy. The hump is apparently the best part and younger camels are tastier than the older animals. I would never want to eat a camel!

Clara Chung, song writer and recording star known by her stage name Clara C,  released a song called ‘The Camel Song." The song mentions ‘a desert full of camels,' but the main theme is love and not camels! Born in 1987, she rose to fame when she won many talent competitions LA in 2009.

When I think of songs about camels, the one by Art Garfunkel comes to mind  and one I remember hearing many years on the radio.   Here are the lyrics:

Not born to the forest are we
Not born to the plain
To the grass and the shadowed tree
And the splashing of rain.
Only the sand we know
And the cloudless sky,
The mirage and the deep-sunk well
And stars on high

To the sound of our bells we came
With huge soft stride
Kings riding upon our backs
And the slave's at our side
Out of the east brought on by a dream of a star
Seeking the hills and the groves
Where the fixed towns are.

Our goal was no palace gate
No temple of old
But a child in his mother's lap
In the cloudy cold
The olives were windy and white
Dust swirled through the town
As all in their royal robes
Our masters knelt down

Then back to the dessert we paced in our phantom state
And faded again int he sands
That are secret as fate-
Portents of glory and danger our dark shadows lay
At the feet of the babe in the manger
And then drifted away.

The photo above was taken in front of the Treasury in Jordan, but reminds me that there is a camel mobile library in Kenya that provides people with books and literature.  In Africa, camels are used to take books to an area which would not otherwise have access to a library.

Camels may not seem like fighters, but they have been used during wars in the past. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians used to ride them but they were used in the 20th century too. The grandfather of the prophet Mohammad almost sacrificed one of his sons to an Arabic god named Hubal. However, the god accepted 100 camels as an alternative sacrifice.

In 1855, the US Congress allowed the War Department to purchase camels using a $30,000 budget. They were used for several years until the soldiers became tired of their bad tempers and smell. 

Camels have three sets of eyelids with two rows of eyelashes.

Photo below: Our children enjoyed their camel ride in Egypt this past year.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis said:  
A camel makes an elephant feel like a jet plane.

1 comment:

  1. I learned so much about camels, and had a great time reading too. :-)