Travel Notes. Camel`s Tears

Let’s talk about the capability to exist in the extreme conditions of the desert, but not the one of people – of camels.

The camel breathes more slowly than the other mammals; its body temperature is higher and perspires later but when this happens the moistened hair turns into a sort of an isolator and does not let the organism to overheat. In the cool of the night it, on the contrary, preserves the warmth. In the winter period its hump, neck, shoulders and head covers in hair the length of which at times reaches the tip of its tail; it falls by summer. Its wool is turned into wonderful manufacture which in softness can be compared to silk. The camel does not lose much liquid. Its kidneys secrete highly concentrated urine which has a pleasant smell of eaten plants. In old times, maybe even now, people used it for washing the hair. Maybe because of this and the use of black and red henna the local beautiful women can be proud of their gorgeous, shining thick mane of hair.

Camels are not capricious in food. They eat the leaves of acacia accurately, in small portions. They also eat up grass, provided that they find it and are not squeamish about the desert shrubs with a saltish taste. However no matter how nice the plant looks, if it has chemical admixtures the camel will never eat it. In the difficult periods of lack of green fodder the animals are content with a small amount of dates, barley, dry fish and the tree barks stored up in advance.

The milk of a female camel is rich in vitamins even if it consumes scanty food. It is more like yoghurt and at times of drought the tribes that lived far from the wells used it to quench thirst sometimes during months. The taste of milk depends on food of the animal, this is why it tends to be saltish, sweetish and sometimes hot. It is impossible to obtain butter from it due to low fattiness, however some store up specific dry cheese in the form of small balls which can be stored perfectly for a long time without fridges and from which soups are made by soaking them.

One female camel gives 6-7 liters of milk a day. Curiously, it lets to milk itself only in the presence of the young of camel or, at the worst, of a stuffed one. This procedure is carried out twice a day and only with clean hands; otherwise as the nomads think the female camel will lose its milk. Camel meat is very popular in the Middle East. It is quite tough and only the meat of a male is consumed. This is not surprising since the female camel is in the first place a pledge of well-being and continuation of posterity. The female is a tender and attentive mother. During many months after the birth of its baby she allows neither strange animals nor people to approach it and can be very aggressive. If in case of misfortune it dies, the mother stands motionlessly over its body and cries with real tears. She leaves this spot only with the dead young of camel. By the way, its other babies follow the mother’s examples. When the suckling is to be torn away from the breast, a piece of wood which traumatizes the mother during breast-feeding is tied to the baby’s nose. She denies him milk and he gradually switches to green fodder. Of course, if this happens in spring when the desert breaks into bloom, the young camel grows stronger faster and gets firmly on its thin legs.

We are accustomed to consider the camel as a calm animal which only sometimes can spit on a very annoying visitor of the zoo. This is not so. Yes, they patiently endure pain, lack of food and water, passages of many days with a 200kg load on the scorching desert. However the nomads always prefer to use female camels for this job because the males can be unpredictable and very aggressive. One must be on the alert especially during the period of coupling when they attack each other and even humans. The wounds from their teeth and kicks can be very serious. This is why the most dangerous animals are muzzled. When a camel is angry or anxious it inflates its mouth like a ball owing to a particularly soft palate and can spit out an annoying green liquid from its ingluvies. Of course, this is not exactly an ordinary spit. Its amount can reach one liter. As for the female camel, they are much calmer, braver and sturdier. They carry their heavy load until they fall in utter exhaustion demonstrating their agony with groans and crying with real tears. Male camels are remarkable for another, not so pleasant characteristic feature. They are revengeful and vindictive. Here is an example.

Once, an owner of a small herd decided to water his camels in a small lake which formed as a result of a downpour. He came up to one of the animals which was the leader among the others and started to force it to stand up. However the camel began to obstinate and did not want to move. The man attempted to force it to obey through shouts and hits with a stick but nothing helped. As everybody knows, if the leader does not go then the others will not move forward. The man tormented himself near the stubborn animal for a long time and finally retreated having noticed the hostile expression in its eyes.

Evening downed. The animals went to the watering place themselves and returned with inflated sides and firm humps. Knowing the camels’ character the man was on the alert. He made his bed farther away from the tent and put a long stuffed sack on his usual place and covered it with a sheet. At night the man saw from his outpost that the camel came almost noiseless to the tent, entered it and crashed with all its weight on his bed. The camel pounded this place with his legs and elbows. The man was beside the tent in two jumps. Having heard the noise the camel rose on his feet and stared at his foe. After a few moments he fell to the ground dead. Probably his heart could not sustain such a deep disappointment.

You can feel yourself as a Bedouin with the help of the following tourist firms which organize camel safaris in the Kyzyl-kum desert in spring.

22.10.2008
Time Out Tashkent

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