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  • Ahmed Saleh

Camels, the "ships of the desert," integral to Arabian Peninsula life

Sakaka, January 28, 2024, For centuries, camels, often referred to as the "ships of the desert," have been an integral part of life on the Arabian Peninsula. Serving as steadfast companions to Bedouins during their journeys across the sandy dunes, camels symbolize resilience, mirroring the strength of ships navigating turbulent waves.

Camels played a crucial role in the establishment of the Saudi state under the leadership of King Abdulaziz Al-Saud and his army, who traversed the land on the backs of horses and camels.

Beyond their role as a source of sustenance through meat and milk and providers of clothing through wool, camels have played an essential role in the Bedouin way of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for generations.

Recognizing the importance of preserving its historical and cultural identity, the Saudi Cabinet designated 2024 as the Year of the Camel.

Camels earned the title "ships of the desert" due to their extraordinary adaptability to the arid and harsh conditions of the desert, where water and vegetation are scarce. Their ability to endure thirst stems from unique physiological adaptations. Camels can tolerate water loss of up to 30%, a remarkable feat that sets them apart from other creatures.

A 2021 study published in the scientific journal Nature, titled "Multiomic analysis of the Arabian camel kidney reveals a role for cholesterol in water conservation," shed light on the role of the kidneys of Arabian camels in adapting to harsh desert conditions. Their kidneys produce highly concentrated urine, minimizing water wastage from their bodies.

Isa Shuraim, a camel owner from Al-Jouf Region, emphasizes the deep bond between humans and camels. According to him, camels can distinguish their owner's voice and even the sound of his car.

Camels hold a special place in local culture and have received attention from the government through festivals and races. The first camel race in the Kingdom took place in Al-Jouf Region in 1383 Hijri.

Recent archaeological discoveries, such as the Camel Site in Sakaka, Al-Jouf Region, revealed life-size animal reliefs, including 17 camel figures, dating back to the Neolithic period (5200-5600 BCE). Researchers suggest that the Camel Site likely houses the oldest life-size animal reliefs in the world.

Annually, Saudi Arabia hosts the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Al-Sayahid, northeast of Riyadh, aiming to deepen appreciation for camels as an integral part of Saudi and Arab culture. The festival encourages the preservation and development of distinguished camel breeds.

In the Year of the Camel, the Ministry of Culture will oversee various initiatives and programs showcasing the value of camels and their connection to Saudi identity. These efforts aim to contribute to the development of the camel sector and its increased contribution to the nation's overall development.

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