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Camels

Last updated on: January 21, 2010 13:22 IST

Camels in Saudi: Food, friend and transport

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One man's meat is another man's poisonHeard the adage? Then read on.

Saudi Arabia has thrown a lifeline to thousands of wild camels, facing cull after their population overshot, leaving the country's ecological balance on the edge.

A report in Times Online says the move of camel lovers in Saudi Arabia where the camels are revered comes after Australia decided to kill 6,000 camels in the Northern Territory town of Dockwer River next week using marksmen firing from helicopters.

The camel is an integral and celebrated part of Saudi's heritage, an icon of its nomadic traditions. Throughout Saudi history, the camel has served as food, friend, transport and war machine.

Enthusiasts in Saudi have mounted an internet campaign calling on their wealthy countrymen to bring the Australian animals to the desert kingdom, the report said.


Image: Pigeons hover over camels at a market in Riyadh
Photographs: Reuters
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No 'camelcide' please, Saudi tells Oz

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Enthusiasts in Saudi have mounted an internet campaign calling on their wealthy countrymen to bring the Australian animals to the desert kingdom, the report said.

The plan has been greeted enthusiastically in Saudi Arabia, with camel-raisers volunteering to rescue the animals.

The report says, "I own more than 80 camels but I am quite willing to receive as many more from Australia," Salim al-Hajjaji said. He had grown up with camels, he told Arab News, an English-language Saudi daily. "I am now about 50 years old but I am as attached to camels as I was in my boyhood."


Image: Camels race during a festival on the outskirts of Riyadh
Photographs: Reuters
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$250,000 compensation claim for a camel!

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In Saudi, camels are valued for their milk and meat while camel races are popular sporting events.

The report quotes an interesting story.

An indication of a prized camel's value came last year when an owner reportedly made a $250,000 compensation claim against the kingdom's oil giant, Saudi Aramco, for causing the death of one of his best animals. He said that the three-year-old female black camel, which he had entered for a prestigious beauty contest, had tumbled into a large hole in the desert used to store crude oil.


Image: Reuters
Photographs: Patrons in costumes drink beer as they watch camels race at Harold Park Paceway in Sydney
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It is a delicacy as well

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Camel meat, almost tastes like beef, but lower in fat, is used in many traditional Saudi stews and curry-type dishes. A fast-food restaurant that opened in Riyadh last year offering baby camel burgers has been a huge hit.


Image: A market in Riyadh where camel meat is sold
Photographs: Reuters
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'Camels a miraculous creation of God'

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A report in Arab News quotes: The Saudi Internet campaign was launched under a Qur'anic theme to make it more appealing to the people. Verse 17 of Surah Al-Ghashiyah (Overwhelming Event), which asks Muslims to meditate on the camel as a symbol of a miraculous creation of God, has been widely quoted by the campaigners. The verse says: "Do they not look at camels and how they are made?" (88:17)


Image: Camels are fed after finishing a race in Riyadh.

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But in Oz, camels are nothing, but pests

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But in Australia, camels are being treated like pest.

The camels, the report said, compete with sheep and cattle for food, crush vegetation and invade remote settlements in search of water, sometimes terrifying people by storming into houses and ripping up water pipes in kitchens and bathrooms.

They have also been branded big polluters, with a single camel allegedly emitting a tonne of carbon a year.

So will Australia deport camels to the kingdom? The answer will be out in a week.


Image: Two wild camels graze in Outback in central Australia.
Photographs: Reuters
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