Tag Archives: camel

I did it! I rode a camel!

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While we were at Bab Al Shams resort, one of the activities available there was the opportunity to ride a camel – oh my goodness, I was eager and I was nervous and I was excited and I was happy.  OK, so…..  here we go.

After we’d had a bite at one of the Bab Al Shams’ restaurants, we walked around a bit exploring, looking at all that the resort had to offer…. Archery, horseback riding, miniature golf, swimming pools that were to die for gorgeous.  Honestly,  some were the “infinity” pools that just looked like they kept going on and on into the desert, some had big water features in them, some were shallow for the kiddies, and some swam right up to the bars.

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Lots of neat shady places to sit and just enjoy the peacefulness of the place, to actually relax and begin to people-watch.  Until I noticed, just past the pools, on the other side of a small ridge, where the resort meets the desert….

CAMELS.  More importantly, PEOPLE and CAMELS.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I pointed it out to TBG and he said “I suppose that’s where we’re headed, right?”.   Silly man.

I walked over the edge of the property, and down the little rise, and there were two camels, with the saddle-things already on them, with ropes, and a few people around them taking pictures.  I stood there for a few minutes, just sort of soaking in the idea that there was the desert, and here were the camels, and here I was.  Goosebumps.

A young woman was standing close to one of the camels, and I realized that she was about to go on a camel ride – I was watching closely.  The camel was kneeling down in the sand with his feet all scrunched up under him about as flat as I suppose a camel can get.

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Still, that hump-back was pretty high up there, I was wondering how she was gonna do it.  Well, you climb.  Just throw your leg up there as high as you can get it, grab the saddle handle thing, and pull/push yourself up.  Definitely not for the less-than-agile.  I was thinking it was gonna take a crane to get me up there and my mouth started feeling a little bit dry……..

Then, the camel started to stand up.  Hind legs first.  REALLY awkward looking, and rough from the expression on the woman’s face as she leaned really far backwards.  Then he got to his front knees.  (Do camels *have* back knees??)  The woman was rocking forwards now, and looked like she was juuuuust about to fall off!  Then, it all sort of leveled out and I thought “she did it!”.  And the handler took off with her.

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Nearby, I noticed an Asian woman was desperately trying to take a photo of her oh-so-cutely dressed little daughter petting a camel, and that little girl was having no part of it.  She was intrigued, but scared.  I remembered a trick that one of the Disney character handlers taught me about how to get a great shot of a scared child with a character….thought I’d try it.

I walked up to the camel, behind the little girl, and started petting it.  She turned around, looked at me, I smiled and said “he’s really nice to pet, would you like to touch him??”  She turned around and looked at her mother, who said “it’s OK!”  And the little girl moved in closer, put out her hand close to mine and touched his fur.  At that time, she started to turn back around and look at her mother giggling, I moved out of the photo, and her mother got a perfect photo of just her daughter touching a camel!  The look of surprise and triumph on that little girl’s face was priceless.

The gent handling one of the camels looked at me and asked “Would you care to ride?”  Oh boy – this is my moment of truth – nerves or courage????

“Sure!”  And he gestured for me to get on the camel.  I had to throw my leg up around shoulder-high to get it over the top of the camel and saddle and pulled/pushed myself on… definitely not one of my more graceful moments.  Thank goodness TBG didn’t get a photo.  And then….. his hind legs went up!  Oh my!!

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I swear I was leaning back as far as I thought I could without falling off.  When my Mama saw this photo, she said “Looked a little bit white-knuckled there, weren’t you, girl?”  Boy, was I!  And, the gent handling the camel was making clicking noises at the camel and pulling on the rope, trying to get it to continue standing up.  Of course it was being stubborn, and here we were…. Half-way up.

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Suddenly, up on its knees!  Now I’m leaning waaaaay forward, hoping to not topple off over the neck of this big critter, hanging on for dear life.  Wow, that other gal’s experience sure looked a whole lot smoother, easier and faster than this!  Oh well, it’s not so bad.

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Then, I realized something.  We weren’t STANDING yet.  How did I realize this?  There was this sudden lurching, this weird, awkward staggering kind of upward movement, and then suddenly, we were moving out towards the desert – away from the resort.  The camel was being led by the handler, I was hanging on for dear life thinking calming thoughts “People have done this before.  Probably small children.  Grab the experience”.   Don’t I look all calm and cool and collected there??  Sheesh.

OK, panicky feelings are over, we’re on a camel, headed out into the desert for a walkabout, and I realize that the handler is speaking.  Something about did I want to know more about the camel?  I said “Certainly!”  in my best non-squeaky-nervous voice.  It was about 10 years old and can walk for miles and miles and miles is about all I can remember, because I’d realized something. I was pretty much doing the “splits” on top of this critter.  It was wide, really wide.  And not well-padded.  So to distract myself and continue on this rolling-gaited trip, I asked the handler if he enjoyed working with camels?  He smiled a crooked smile and said “Yes, Madame, they are very gentle creatures”.  I asked if he’d been here in Dubai long and he answered a year and a half.  I asked if he had family here, he snapped his head around and looked at me with almost a piercing look, and said “No Madame, no family here, they are all back in Egypt”.

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As I was digesting this information, we began the turn to make a journey back to the resort.  I thought we’d been gone about an hour…. It was no where close to that.  But it was surely long enough for me to realize that I’d probably want one of those nice comfy saddle things like on horses….. with stirrups and a seat.

Now, headed back, I’m feeling all confident like I’m some expert camel-rider or something… I even reached down (loosening my death-grip hold on that handle thing) to actually *pet* that camel.  Don’t I look relaxed and like I’m not sitting on one of the tallest mammals on the planet??  Sitting on something higher than TBG’s head??

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This was TBG’s chuckle for the day, I’m sure….. I was thinking “what the heck??” when I found it on my camera,  but then, he has a truly warped sense of humor, you know…… go ahead and roll your eyes in advance……

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I’m glad I got the opportunity to practice my camel-riding skills though.  Just in case I ever find myself in the midst of making a camel caravan journey, you know.  Hey, it could happen!

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Followup to Camelicious – taste test video inside

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OK, so here’s a video of me tasting camel’s milk for the first time…… it’s our first attempt.  I think we need better lighting….. <Smile>

Note to self – speak slower.  Even though you’re a Yankee, it’s easier for people to understand you if you speak more slowly.  And mercy, get better lighting!!!

Edited to add this nutrition label for the chocolate milk!

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It’s Camelicious!

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TBG always sees camels on the way to work and is telling me about them –  I couldn’t understand why, till he casually mentioned “oh, well, there’s a camel dairy just off the road”.  What??  Why have we not been there yet??  So, here we go!

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Driving up to the entrance of the facility.  I wanted to take photos of the actual road we were on, but there was a group of men sitting alongside the road in the shade, eating and drinking.  It’s not acceptable to take someone’s photo here unless you ask first, so I didn’t get that shot.

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Yup, It’s Camelicious!  Told you.   The official name of this dairy is The Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products (EICMP).  Now, just for fun, go right ahead and start singing in your head the song “Fergalicious” by Fergie….. “So delicious (It’s hot, hot) So delicious (I put them boys on rock, rock) So delicious (They want a taste of what I got) I’m Fergalicious (T-t-tasty, tasty)”  OK, anyway, now that that’s stuck in your brain read on!

From this facility, over  3000 camels produce the nutritious milk which the on-site factory processes into multiple products- milk, flavored milk, chocolates and “camelchinos” – frothy coffee beverages.

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This camel dairy farm is owned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, and is one of only two in the UAE and is the largest in the world.  The herds are still under development, with western-style herd tracking, breeding and artificial insemination methods underway, but the Camelicious milk has been on supermarket shelves in the UAE for years.  The UK has just issued the approval for Camelicious milk to be exported there and will be on UK supermarket shelves shortly.  Now, as I understand it, wild camel milk has a very “distinct” flavor as the animals graze on desert brush, and this taste is generally considered undesirable for the masses.  Camelicious camels are “camels of a different kind” though.  They are fed imported alfalfa hay from New Zealand as well as carrots and dates.  This combination sweetens the milk and makes it more consistent and palatable.

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One thing I’ve learned about this facility is that they have a genuine concern for these tempermental critters.  They don’t want them turned into “humped milking machines”.  See, camels do not like to have their schedule disrupted, they normally need their calves present to produce milk, and they’re used to walking  many miles daily.  In order to keep the herds happy and milky, the facility has made adjustments – scheduling is precise, a walking track has been added and the camels spend daily time with their calves.  Happy camels, Camelicious milk!

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I asked TBG why this camel had a red rope between his front feet and he said it was a hobble of sorts.  I asked why all the rest of the camels didn’t have one, and he said “That one must be the leader.  Camels are social critters, they’ll follow one lead camel anywhere, but they like to stay huddled together.  Their body temperatures are lower than the outside temps, so huddling feels cooler to them.”

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This is the “cattle guard” things that I’m used to seeing in the US over roadways at fenceline – though those are made of pipes, and much closer together.  These must be heavier, and further apart for the camels’ bigger feet.

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Oh, and ever wonder how they transport camels from place to place??  LOL… here ya go!!

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