First things first, we don’t know what type of camel this is as we can’t see it’s hump or humps! As a refresher, camels with one hump are called Dromedary and are found in Africa and Arabia and camels with two humps are Bactrian and from central Asia.
The camel is akin to the horse in a number of ways. They opened up trade routes including the silk route and the incense route and allowed humans to make long journeys which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. They were also used by people exploring Australia. Camels were shipped in and used like horses to get around and also played a key role in the development of infrastructure. As with horses, we have domesticated the camel but wild camels are still out there although you’re unlikely to see one as they’re quite shy.
This strong relationship with journeys and travel means that the camel is associated with pilgrimage. This is quite an unusual concept for us in 2017, how many of us take or feel the need to take a pilgrimage? Surely we can just hop on a plane and get where we want to be without the long trek to get there? But this overlooks a key part of a pilgrimage, the travel is part of the pilgrimage, not just the destination. And human life is much the same. The only clear end point is death (and/or whatever comes after) and so we need to enjoy the journey.
And the only way we will complete the pilgrimage through life and enjoy the journey is by pacing ourselves and being resourceful, stocking up with reserves where we can – this probably isn’t going to be vast amounts of water like the camel but memories, joyful experiences, beautiful moments. How can you use these in a time of drought? Perhaps looking through photo albums can make tough times a little easier or rifling through a memory box…
In some ways they are also like the bison. The humans who’ve worked alongside them for over 3000 years have made best use of their resources and treated them with the respect they deserve. In terms of the abundances they provide, they drank camel milk, used their skin for clothes etc, ate their meat, used them for shelter (they would dig a hole next to a camel so the camel protected them from sandstorms etc) and their dung was used for fuel.
Whilst this “ship of the desert” can run up to 50 miles per hour, it is built for the long distance approach. Unlike most of us, it can stay calm in the face of intense heat. They can survive deserts exceptionally well and are incredibly well adapted to their habitat. Obviously there is the hump which is full of fat, they can close their nostrils and have thick eyelashes and hairy ears to keep out the sand. Indeed they are so well adapted that they been around unchanged for a very long time.
It is often believed that camel stores water in it’s hump but it’s actually fat. Water is stored in it’s blood stream and can go up to seven days before needing to drink. When water is available, they drink so much so fast that it would harm any other creature. And they can extract water from their food and drink water too salty for other animals. They can also lose up to 40% of their body weight before having any issues. This is a creature which really is asking you to be resourceful and use all you have available to you. Look at your resources, both internal and external.
In the fable of Zeus and the camel, the camel saw another animal’s horns and lusted after them. The camel went all the way up to the heavens to beg Zeus to give it horns too. Zeus was angry at the camel’s greediness, so he cropped its ears instead. Leaving it hornless and without it’s original long beautiful ears. Be careful what you ask for, appreciate what you have and don’t compare yourself to others.
Apparently the Qur’an asks followers to reflect on the camel. One website discussing this says…
“I think it’s interesting that of all the animals mentioned in the Quran—dogs, horses, birds, locusts, etc—God picked the camel as the one we should reflect upon. It’s not the most beautiful animal in the world; it’s not the fastest or the strongest; it’s not the most loyal or the most wild. But it’s a little bit of all of those things, and that gives it its character and its worth. God combined all of these traits, and many more, to create an animal perfectly suited to fill its niche in the world, and when we reflect just on that, it can teach us a lot about submitting to God’s will, and accepting our own place in the world with more grace and tolerance.”
To me, as a none religious person, the first thing I think of is the idea of a jack of all trades vs a master of one trade. I am very much a multifaceted person and whilst I have a degree in maths, I don’t feel I have mastered one thing exceptionally well, instead working to get reasonably good at many things. I have too many interests to be boxed in. There was a quote that I saw somewhere earlier, nothing to do with camels, but it essentially said, if you have many competing interests do not feel forced to focus on just one, instead introduce them to each other. This is the space where magical things happen. You get science focused art, you get stories about science.