Riyadh, January 04, 2024, The enduring connection between Arabs and camels unfolds a narrative of companionship and dependence across the expansive desert landscapes. Bedouins, dwellers of the deserts, found solace and invaluable assistance in these majestic creatures as they navigated the arid terrains in search of sustenance. The humps and sturdy backs of camels bore the weight of countless journeys, with their significance immortalized through grand gestures of gifting them to noble leaders.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Otaibi, Chairman of the Saudi Society for Camel Studies, sheds light on the profound and historical bond between Arabs and camels, tracing its roots back to ancient times. He notes that the earliest mentions of Arabs in history are intricately linked with camels, underscoring the vital role these creatures played in the lives of the desert dwellers.
Among the notable historical camels, Al-Otaibi highlights the esteemed she-camel Al-Qaswa, ridden by Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. This camel, considered the second most famous in history after the she-camel of Prophet Saleh, has left an indelible mark in the collective memory of Arabs and Muslims.
The sacred texts, including the Quran and various Hadiths, underscore the significance of camels. The Quran refers to these magnificent creatures as a sign of Allah's munificence, while Hadiths further illuminate their revered status in Arab society.
The deep-seated attachment of Arabs to camels is palpable. In ancient times, the words "wealth" and "camels" were used interchangeably in their vernacular. Dr. Hind Al-Mutairi, a faculty member at King Saud University, explains that camels, often referred to as the "ships of the desert," symbolize the continuity of movement, work, and survival in the harsh desert environment.
Camels, resilient and indispensable, serve as a lifeline, protecting their owners from the perils of the unforgiving desert. The Arabs, therefore, developed an intimate bond with camels, carefully observing their well-being, strength, and unique characteristics.
According to Al-Mutairi, the Arabs bestowed myriad names on camels, capturing their diverse characteristics. The rich lexicon of camel-related terms enriched the Arabic language and found expression in ancient poetry, with a staggering 10,046 words related to camels documented in the book "Camels in the Ancient Near East and the Arabian Peninsula."
Arabic poetry has long celebrated the she-camel, held in high regard by Bedouin tribes. Al-Mutairi remarks on the intimate bond between Arabs and she-camels, a bond so profound that conversations flow as if they were cherished confidants.
Highlighting their multifaceted contributions, Al-Otaibi emphasizes the numerous benefits of camels. These remarkable creatures provide sustenance through their meat and milk, their wool is utilized to make tents, and they have the ability to carry weary travelers across vast distances. Moreover, camels hold a place of honor as gifts presented to kings and distinguished leaders, symbolizing reverence and respect.
The timeless bond between camels and Arabs extends across different eras, reaching the era of the Saudi state. Camels played a significant role in unifying the country under the leadership of King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud.
According to Al-Otaibi, "King Abdulaziz had a deep affection for camels and cared for them. He appointed individuals to oversee them, due to their vital role in the unification process, as they formed the backbone of King Abdulaziz's army."
This cultural heritage continued during the reign of his successors, and under the reign of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud, even more prominence is accorded to camels. Royal patronage is given to related festivals, and a steadfast commitment to safeguarding Saudi heritage is evident through the establishment of the International Camel Organization.
As part of this commitment, the Saudi passport now proudly showcases captivating imagery of a majestic herd of camels, ensuring that the world recognizes the profound attachment of the Saudi people to their heritage. The Cabinet's approval of designating 2024 as the Year of the Camel further underscores the leadership's dedication to promoting and fostering this authentic symbol that embodies Saudi culture.