ancestor of the camel lived in North America and was no bigger than a
hare (Lepus sp.). From there they reached South America, evolving into
vicuna and guanaco, from which alpaca and llama were domesticated, and
Asia where they live on as the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) and
dromedary or one-humped camel (Camel dromedarius). The latter is found
across North Africa, Arabia and the Near East.
Inextricably associated with Arabia, the camel has long been a beast of
burden. Before the discovery of oil, camel caravans carrying firewood,
charcoal, dates and other agricultural produce regularly crossed the desert
from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi, taking two or three full days to complete their
journey. In summer, camels were used to transport entire families from
the humid coast to cooler oases in the interior.
The camel still has an important role in the UAE society, with many families
owning a few animals for their milk, or, during religious or other festivals,
the succulent meat. Bedouin families may maintain large herds, occasionally
numbering over one hundred individuals, something enabled by government
The first World Camel Symposium was held in Dubai in 1992 and considerable
investment is made to ensure that, coupled with ongoing research, continually
improving state of the art management of the animals is possible.
Camel-racing of a specially selected breed of non-dairy camel is an immensely
popular winter activity. This ancient sport has been revived in recent
years, with most larger towns possessing a camel racing circuit.