September 24, 2010

On Camels

I am currently reading T.E. Lawrence's (Lawrence of Arabia) book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The book itself is fascinating, being both a war memoir of the Arab Revolt and a travelogue describing the geography and peoples of northern Arabia and Jordan.

I've come across two paragraphs about camels that I found of interest; the first paragraph answers a question for us non-Arab Muslims who are unfamiliar with camels: Why is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) always mentioned in the various biographies as riding on a female camel?

We grew short-answered to one another; but relief came toward six o'clock, when we halted for supper, and baked ourselves fresh bread. I gave my camel what was left of my share, for the poor animal went tired and hungry in these bad marches. She was the pedigree camel given by Ibn Saud of Nejd to King Hussein and by him to Feisal; a splendid beast; rough, but sure-footed on hills, and great-hearted. Arabs of means rode none but she-camels, since they went smoother under the saddle than males, and were better tempered and less noisy: also, they were patient and would endure to march long after they were worn out, indeed until they tottered with exhaustion and fell in their tracks and died: whereas the coarser males grew angry, flung themselves down when tired, and from sheer rage would die there unnecessarily. (p. 258)

Two paragraphs later, Lawrence relates how camels from one part of Arabia might not do as well in other parts of the country:

Camels brought up on the sandy plains of the Arabian coast had delicate pads to their feet; and if such animals were taken suddenly inland for long marches over flints or other heat-retaining ground, their soles would burn, and at last crack in a blister; leaving quick flesh, two inches or more across, in the centre of the pad. In this state they could march as ever over sand; but if, by chance, the foot came down on a pebble, they would stumble, or flinch as though they had stepped on fire, and in a long march break down altogether unless they were very brave. So we rode carefully, picking the softest way, Auda and myself in front. (pp. 258-59)

Photo credit: Wikipedia: Lawrence at Aqaba, 1917


Anonymous said...

I haven't read the book - but the theme of it reminds me of the book I'm currently reading: "The Road to Mecca" by Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss). It's an awesome book.

Anyway, your post's title jumped out at me because I was around some camels just a few days ago. It was at a petting zoo type thing, and these particular camels were there to give people rides. Anyway, I was pushed by the one carrying my wife. It was a gentle camel though - otherwise I would have been terrified ;)

JDsg said...

I have "The Road to Mecca" as well, and it's also a book I haven't read yet. Maybe I'll pick that up next. :)