The author urges decision makers in the UAE to pay more attention to camels and identify new investment opportunities which will make use of the large number of camels in the country.
A typical Hollywood movie would normally depict life in old Arabia by showing a man wearing a Ghutra, traveling on his camels through a vast empty desert. The same approach was used in educational documentaries about Arabia. To some extent the camel and the desert were a true representation of old Arabia. This practice continued even after the discovery of oil and the modernization of Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE.
One of the famous pictures in the UAE is of the late Sheikh Shakhbout bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi between 1928 and 1966. The picture was taken in 1961 near Al Hosn Palace. In the picture the Sheikh is sitting on a carpet with a falcon on his hand. Beside him was an Um Al Sheif oil rig model and in the background were camels and the empty desert. It could be a coincidence that the camels were in the background, but I would imagine that the photographer wanted them to be there to tell the viewers that new wealth didn’t change the people in Arabia and their way of life.
There is an eternal relationship between bedouins and camels. Camels played a vital role in wars, transportation, and were and still are considered a source of wealth. In addition, camels’ milk and meat provided the necessary means of living in the harsh desert environment. Therefore, the Bedouins paid attention to their camels and learned through time how to breed them and take care of them.
Conflicts between tribes would occur from time over the ownership of camels. Arab history has many examples of such conflicts including the famous 40 years war between two large Arab tribes named Taghlib and Baker.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the importance of camels has started to diminish due to the modernization of societies and the change in our lifestyles. However, this hasn’t affected the relationship between the Bedouins and their camels. The special relationship still exists, although breeding camels has become more of a hobby.
Nowadays, camels are mainly used for racing. Annually, camel racing takes place during the winter months in different racetracks across the country. In addition, the government organizes camel festivals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and has established multiple veterinaries across the country in order to meet the increasing demand for camel care.
In my opinion, there are other opportunities that could be explored in order to make better use of the camels. There is an increasing demand for camel’s milk and meat due to their beneficial healthy properties. There is also a need for research centers that specializes in camel breeding. The UAE could assume a vital role in the region by establishing a regulated camel market which can eventually become the hub for camel trading in the region.
Camels, the ships of the desert, played a vital role in our culture and they deserve to be taken care of. If not for their commercial value, it should be for their cultural and historical value.
Abdulla holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. His abstract passion for history and literature with a hint of photography adds to his noble enduring quality. Abdulla enjoys visiting museums, art exhibitions and likes to spend his spare time in the outdoors. His column “Emirati Reflections” is a mixture of stories from the past and insights of the present, which blend together and formulate his understanding of the UAE’s culture.