Camels, sometimes known as the “ships of the desert,” are what many think of when they think of Morocco. The camels found in Morocco are known as Arabian, or Dromedary, camels. The Dromedary camel makes up about ninety percent of the camel population worldwide, although there is actually some debate on whether Dromedary camels should be referred to as camels at all, because they have a single hump, rather than the traditional two humps, of other species of camel.
The hump is a thing of wonder. It can hold up to 80 pounds of fat, which can be used by the camel for water and energy. As a result, the camel can travel up to 100 miles without water. They rarely sweat, which conserves water, and allows them to sometimes go for weeks without it. When a camel is given the opportunity to restore its water intake, it can drink up to 30 gallons in as little as 13 minutes.
The Dromedary’s hump is only one of the many things about a camel that make it ideal for surviving in the desert. They also have two rows of long, think eyelashes to keep sand out of their eyes, and have a clear inner eyelid called the nictitating membrane that protects the camel’s eyes while still allowing for enough light to see. Their ears are incredibly hairy, and their nostrils even close to protect them from desert sands, as well. The camel’s lips are large and tough to help hold in moisture, and the upper lip is spit in two so that each part can move independently, which comes in handy when the camel is eating grass, thorns and salty desert plants. To walk on the hot, moving desert sand, as well as making it easier to travel rocky terrain, Dromedaries have big, thick footpads. When the camel is full-grown, it can be as tall as 6 – 7 feet, and weigh up to 1,600 pounds. These creatures can also live anywhere from 25 to 50 years. A surprising fact about the Dromedary camel is that they are capable of increasing their own body heat, which allows them to more easily survive the desert temperatures, which can reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they need little food and water, they are the perfect companions for the nomadic peoples of Morocco.
The camel’s rumbling growl is a noise [that] was used in the Star Wars movies to create Chewbacca’s voice.Herds of camels are known as flocks, or caravans. They are capable of traveling up to 25 miles a day while carrying large loads, although they are no longer the traditional mode of transportation. The Dromedary camel has been domesticated for around 3,500 years, and is not often found in the wild. Partially tamed herds often follow the nomadic peoples of Morocco as they travel from one feeding ground to the next. The camels seem to understand that where the nomadic people go, they will be able to find food. Though many believe camels to be aggressive and hard to work with, the opposite is usually found to be true: only the leader of a herd is normally aggressive and stubborn. The only other time these animals are known to be aggressive is when they feel their herd is being threatened, or is in some kind of danger. Most of the time, the Dromedary is known to be an extremely patient, gentle and intelligent creature.
When the camel is feeling threatened, it does have an interesting defense mechanism which long perpetuated the idea that camels spit (which is not entirely true): camels actually bring up the contents of their stomach, along with their saliva, in order to distract or frighten whatever it feels threatened by. Camels also make bellows and roars, among many other sounds, but the camel’s rumbling growl is a noise most people will find familiar: it was used in the Star Wars movies to create Chewbacca’s voice. Beyond their unusual voice talents, camels can be used for their milk, wool, meat, and even their dung (which can be used as a fuel source for fires when the need arises), on top of being a form of transportation for people and cargo. Camels are no longer the traditional mode of transportation, but are still used by nomads. Camels are still the best way to reach many of the more remote areas of Morocco and the desert, where it is difficult to travel by car or by foot.
The Dromedary camels certainly live up to their title as the “ships of the desert.” They are perfect desert companions, and are highly respected as a result. The Dromedary camels are fascinating creatures perfectly adapted for their lives in the desert from their hump to their footpads. No Moroccan story would be complete without their inclusion.
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