Camels have always been important in this part of the world since they were domesticated, more than 4,000 years ago. The Arabian camel is a dromedary, with a single hump (fatty deposit) on its back, as distinct from the two-humped Bactrian camel of Central Asia.
The camel provides milk and meat, is a beast of burden and confers prestige on its owner. Camel races are popular throughout Arabia: camels can run at up to 65 km/hour in short bursts and sustain speeds of up to 40 km/hour. The word "camel" comes from the Arabic "Jamal", derived from the triconsonantal root signifying "beauty". The average life expectancy of a camel is 40 to 50 years.
There are various camel farms in Abu Dhabi Emirate and a busy market about 20 kilometres from Al Ain, near the border with Oman. Camels from throughout the region are bought and sold here, including fine racing camels from Saudi Arabia. For tourists there are camel rides and short trots around, led by a bearded old man on foot. Not exactly like Lawrence of Arabia!