Cruising up the Red Sea gives you lots of opportunities to get up close and
personal with camels. Our first interaction with them happened in the
mountains of southern Oman. Most camel herds wander through the mountains
untended. At the end of the day a herder rounds them up and returns them to
the safety of camp.
About three hours south of Salalah heading toward the Yemeni border, we came
upon a herd of camels wandering in the road. Dozens of curious camels
surrounded our car sniffing our salty clothes.
Up on the hillside, another herd munched on thorny acacia branches. Their
tough lips and tongues somehow survive the thorny meal. Camels aren't
aggressive unless you mistreat them. They are curious and only slightly
skittish. They usually look you over from head to toe, and then they ignore
Wherever you travel around the Red Sea, you will encounter apparently
untended herds of camels. But don't make the mistake of thinking they are
wild. When you look at their head and neck you'll find a brand or a
tag in their ear that
identifies their owner.
If they ever create an Olympic event in synchronized staring, camels will be
the hands down winners. Camels excel in synchronized staring. If
you meet up in the desert with twelve battalions of wild camels, in unison,
they will stare you down.
This curious camel was an outlier, but even when separated from the rest of
the herd, an unrelenting stare is still the order of the day.
Camels are beautiful in a homely sort of way. They can open and close
their nostrils at will, and when sand storms are blowing they can shut their
nostrils down until the second that they take a breath. Camels have
large lashes to protect their eyes from blowing debris, and they have a
membrane that they can slide over the surface of their eye to keep dust and
sand out of their eye during a sand storm.
Camels eat acacia trees and bushes laced with spiny thorns. I wouldn't
last fifteen minutes if I tried to eat those thorns, but the camels gobble
them like like they are marshmallows.
From the top of the head, to the hump on their back, to the tip of their
"toes," camels are tough critters. It's no wonder they were so
important to Bedouins who had to survive in the same harsh land by drinking
their milk and eating their meat.
You don't need to be afraid of camels unless you do something that hurts
them. They are curious and non-aggressive animals that respond to gentle
prodding, Saudis told me that if a camel ever attacks you, you should
take your clothes off and sprint quickly away. Apparently the camels
associate your smell with your clothes, and they will pulverize your clothes
in vengeance while you make your escape. I have no personal experience
with angry camels, but you can bet your bottom dollar that my clothes will
be history if I ever meet up with a vengeful camel.