Watch any movie about the Middle East and/or Arabian culture and you will most assuredly see a camel in one or more of the scenes of the movie. Come to Israel and drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea along Highway 1, and you will see camels standing by the roadside in various locations, waiting patiently with their owners for a tourist that is willing to part with a few Israeli shequels in exchange for a short camel ride.
What is it about these creatures that seem to capture our attention in a heartbeat or at the very least, make us turn our heads and stare until something else distracts us? Well, you have to admit, they are fascinating creatures and they are quite stereotypical for the Middle East environment.
Briefly, in this article I want to talk about camels because in truth, they are not only remarkable in being able to survive harsh environments that we humans find typically inhospitable – the desert; but they also are functional creatures which are excellent for baggage handling; for solving long-haul transportation issues in Middle East environments; for their longevity and strength as Captains of the desert; for being strong beasts that can outrun a man.
Here are some facts to consider:
– Camels don’t sweat until they reach a threshold of about 41 degrees C, or 107 degrees F.
– Camels have long nostrils, which enables them to lock in much needed moisture where necessary; in environments where water is not readily available.
– Camels can withstand a moisture loss of about 20% to 25% of its body weight without dehydrating. Compare this to most mammals that can easily dehydrate with a loss of 3% to 4% of their body weight.
– Camels with their humps are unique in that the hump is a large fat reserve, which regulates body heat and cold, etc….
– Camels can drink 100 – 150 liters (26 to 39 gallons) of water in ONE DRINKING SESSION!
-Camels are found primarily in Africa and Asia and are excellent for long distances and dry places
-Camels are a great vehicle for traveling across the desert. The Nabateans used them extensively and the 14th
century el Amarna letters of Egypt mentions them
– Camels are mentioned in the Bible over 250 times
– An ancient city of northern Israel is named from a camel because it is looks like the hump of a camel; the city is called Gamla in the northeast Galilee
-Camels were used as wartime vehicles (Judges 7:12) in Israel and in Babylon
– Camels can sustain running speeds of about 40 kmh (nearly 25 mph) and can run spurts of up to 65kmh ( 40mph)
– Camels eat straw, vegetation and grasses.
– Camels are not kosher for food according to Torah dietary laws (Deut. 14:6 and Lev. 11:3), but some Muslims will eat Camel meat; others will not
– Camels weigh about 600 kilo or a little over 1300 pounds.
– Camels can carry about 100 – 130 kilo (about 220 to nearly 300 pounds) for long distances. For short distances, they can carry even more!
– Camels have long legs to give them elevation. Why? Because as the wind blows underneath them, their elevation created by their legs, helps keep a good distance between their body and the ground. The airflow underneath them keeps them cool.
– Camels urinate on their back legs and consequently on their tails (that is why their tails look rather stained in color), which also helps them to cool down.
– Camels, when they chew the cud, goes up and down the throat and gullet.
– Camels have feet, not hooves. They also have toes with toenails. Their feet are padded and can be spread out as they walk so that they can grip stones and rocks while walking on rocky paths or on sand. The hoof is soft, not hard so that it can act like a strong grip for what is underneath it and it is padded enough to avoid getting cut. If you are looking to rent a camel, check the bottom of its foot regularly.
This list should get you started on understanding why camels are the true ships of the desert and why they were so reliable in biblical times and remain the same today in hot Middle Eastern countries.
In Hebrew, a camel is a Gamal, from the Hebrew word Gimmel Mem Lamed, an idea that expresses benefit, recompense, beauty and goodliness, and so does this beast give its riders a great reward for its strength, longevity, and ability to serve man in a most magnificent way.
“…And out of the ground Adonai YHWH formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field….” (Genesis 2:19-20)