Everyone who knows me knows I have loved camels for years. Many people get the wrong idea about camels, and they have a bad reputation they don’t deserve. I find them not only beautifully adapted to their environment, but beautiful to look at. Despite their oddly shaped bodies and ungainly legs, they move with a quiet strength, almost gliding along the sand and streets here. And they have the softest look in their eyes, and seem almost to understand when I talk to them.
When I was living in Siwa I rarely saw camels, always I was surrounded by donkeys. Here the camels far outnumber the donkeys, and driving through Sinai you see them wherever there is a Bedouin settlement.
While Nuweiba is not a large town and there is really nothing you could call traffic, among relatively groomed streets and concrete housing it still seems strange to see camels strolling every day. Sometimes they sail out of the night down a dimly lit road, sometimes they are parked outside a cafe waiting for their owner, sometimes they are munching on trees or feeding in the communal garbage bins (sharing that habit with the goats and cats).
Their large teeth and sometimes sudden swing of neck or lurching to their feet could scare off many people, but I have found that if I approach them slowly most camels will let me stroke their necks and heads. To put your hand on the top of a camel’s head while it eats is a strange sensation – not just their jaw but the entire skull seems to be in motion, like a small earth tremor under that thin brown skin.
Many are left to graze apparently unattended. Their Bedouin owners will not be far away, because they are valuable and highly valued in Sinai, but the camels often seem to be running their own lives, choosing which part of town to ramble through or claiming a beach shelter as their own.
Here are some that I have met over the last 3 months.