The Arabic camel, the Dromedary (one hump not two) is found in the Middle East. It’s not surprising that the undulating motion one experiences while riding atop a camel is the same as that used in Middle Eastern belly dance. In our dance form, we call the undulation, surprise of surprises, the ‘camel walk.” There are different versions of the “camel walk” we will cover in future articles. Camels have become symbols of belly dance.
Interestingly enough, giraffes also have the same method of walking as the camel. If the dance originated in Kenya, belly dancers would probably be dancing the “giraffe walk.” Camels, however, are fascinating and misunderstood creatures.
Contrary to what most think, camels don’t spit. They do “throw up” when they feel threatened. They do moan and groan, bleat, bellow and roar. Most times, though, they are rather quiet. They are also rather docile. They seek attention, are inquisitive, affectionate but can be a bit emotional and unpredictable.
A Dromedary camel stands about six-feet tall at the shoulder, seven-feet tall at the hump. The hump rises about thirty-inches from the body. They weigh between 1,000 and 1,600 pounds. Camels can run 65mph in short bursts but can sustain a speed of 25mph.
These hot-climate camels are adapted to harsh, dry desert conditions. Their eyes have a thin membrane that’s like a clear inner eyelid that protects the eye from blowing sand yet allows in enough light for the camel to see. Double rows of long eyelashes and bushy brows also keep out the sand. They can close their nostrils to keep out sand as well.
Camels are basically herbivores but have been known to eat fish. They have large, tough lips adapted to pick up dry vegetation, including thorny plants. Each half of their split upper lip moves independently to help it grip short grass from the ground. Like cows, they regurgitate food back up from their stomach to chew it again. Their stomachs are divided into three sections for this purpose.
Large, broad feet do not sink into the sand. Broad, flat leather pads with two toes on each foot. Though they do not have cloven hooves, they are not considered kosher. Camel milk is low fat. Though they are mainly beasts of burden their meat is eaten their skinned tanned into leather, their fur used as wool and their dung used as fuel. A camel can carry 200 pounds for 20 miles in a harsh desert without food or water. Camels have been domesticated for over 3,500 years.
Camels can go a week or more without water and several months without food. When they do drink they can drink 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes.
The Bedouins, desert nomads, used to rely on camels for transportation. These days, four-by-fours serve the purpose. Camels used to be a sign of wealth. The more you owned, the richer you were. This is part of a joke in Egypt. As a side note, my husband was asked by an Egyptian, “How many camels would you take for your wife?” Too many!