|Marhaba - Welcome!|
"SHIP Ahoy" is the familiar cry of sailors as they discover another ship sailing in the loneliness of the vast seas. The same cry is excitedly echoed nowadays by tourists in the vastness of the sandy deserts when they discover the "ship of the desert," a camel, roaming placidly in the vastness of the sandy deserts of Arabia, thanks to the many camel farms that breed and rear these animals which are let loose during the day to forage and exercise.
From centuries ago to the present, the camel has been used for traveling through the desert in stretches including the Empty Quarter where very few people dare to make their passage.
With the tourism boom, camel farms have been set up in many parts of Arabia and one such farm is a stopping site for tourists in the Al Aweer section of the desert near Dubai where a famous racing camel named Akwara is contentedly living out the rest of his days as a stud bull.
Akwara belongs to Sheikh Ahmed and has been put out to pasture after bagging many awards for his master, according to 20-year-old Mohammed Akbar from Pakistan who is one of the caretakers. The champion camel shares an exclusively corralled area with nine other prize camels, champions in their hey-days and now rested for breeding purposes as studs.
The camel farm has about 500 other mixed herd of camels which are looked after by Akbar, his uncle and five other people who live on the farm itself. The herd is fed and then set free to roam the whole day till they return back at dusk.
The herds are fed twice a day in the morning and evening with clover (alfalfa), oats and dates. They are hobbled with two-feet-long ropes tied to their forelegs to prevent them from running fast and making them easier to catch if they stray or try to run away. The hobbled camels include pregnant females and young camels who are restricted in their movements by the rope to travel far and can easily be traced and brought back in case they are lost.
When the camels are let out for grazing, they follow the course of the rising sun till its peak at mid-day and browse around in the area where they have reached until sunset after which they begin their homeward journey.
The route that the camels travel daily can be seen from the number of trees which have been cropped by them in the course of their feeding. Looking like umbrellas, the trees are shorn of their lower branches and green cover that matches the height of the camels' reach during their feeding frenzy, according to Bobby, who is one of the many tourist guides taking tourists on desert
The camel has been the favorite animal of the bedouin tribes since it carried loads up to 100 kilogrammes and people, supplied them with milk and meat while its skin could be processed into leather and its droppings dried and used as manure or even fuel. Besides, the camels were easier to maintain as they were well acclimatised to the extremely hot environment of the Arabian desert, Bobby said.
Besides drinking as much as 200 litres of water in barely 15 minutes, the camel has 800 large storage cells in one of its three pre-stomachs where water and nutrients are stored for use during lengthy period where food and water is not available.