Season 2023 – Talk 02.3 – The Camel
In The Camel Richard Thomas tells us about the importance of the ‘Ship of the Desert’ throughout history.
Click a thumbnail below to view the image gallery that accompanies the talk.
The Ship of the Desert :
The camel has shipped slaves, salt and gold across the Sahara desert and shipped spices from Asia for many centuries.
The Silk Roads, which run from Central Asia to places on the eastern edge of Europe, are around 4,000 miles long. These routes joined China and Europe in trade using the Asian two humped Bactrian camels.
A camel train might have a thousand camels, walking 25 miles a day, each carrying over 300 pounds in weight with a round trip often taking over a year.
Camels, rather than the much more elegant, but less tough horse, are useful in hot desert conditions like the Sahara, the Middle East, and the deserts of Central Asia.
94% of camels are the one hump dromedary whilst the other 6% are the Bactrian. Both can be domesticated, but it’s the dromedary whose role in history that Richard focuses on.
They can live to 40 or 50 years and have a top speed of around 40 miles an hour. A camel can drink 200 litres of water in 3 minutes and then go without water for 10 days. Their humps aren’t like tanks with water sloshing around, they’re fatty tissue which, when it’s metabolized, releases water.
Their thick coat protects them from extreme heat and cold, their outer hair is fairly waterproof and can and is used for tents, clothing, bedding and blankets. Richard has a camel hair blanket that he brought back from Oman. It’s not very comfortable for sitting on, but it’s alright in the garden.
The finer inner hair can be used for clothing and was quite popular in the West in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Where do I find them?
Most camels operate in the desert strip across the middle of the globe. Estimates suggest there are over six million in Somalia where they’re the main form of transport, a further 3 million in Sudan and a million in Australia where they went there for use as transport across the desert in the 19th century.
Listen to the podcast and hear Richard tell the whole story.
About this podcast:
This is an edited recording of a talk given to the Farnham u3a World History Group .
It is not always possible to use all of the images presented in the original talk because of copyright reasons.
AKM Music licenses Media Magazine for use the music in this talk.
© The MrT Podcast Studio and Farnham u3a World History Group 2018 – 2023