The camel. ‘The ship of the desert,’ or akin to the Titanic to board? Peter Flynn considers.
There is an old, boring joke about camels which people occasionally tell each other when they have run out of other things to say:
“A camel is a horse designed by committee.”
It is possible that this is an observation about committees rather than camels, but the idea is that if too many people get involved in designing something, it will be a disaster.
And indeed, as with all jokes, this contains a kernel of truth. The camel is a design nightmare.
I didn’t really think about all this until recently. Last month I went to the Sahara Desert, and rode on a dromedary for about three hours in total, because this is what you are supposed to do there. If you don’t know, a dromedary is basically a camel designed by committee. The time spent on the back of that stumbling quadruped was not all unpleasant – the first five minutes were novel – but I won’t be camel-riding again, because camels are uncomfortable. This is their fundamental flaw.
A major contributing factor to this problem is how unrhythmically dromedaries walk. The camel is called ‘the ship of the desert’ by the Berber people, which suggests that riding on one might be as smooth and peaceful as sailing can sometimes be; but what do people in the desert know about ships? Calling a camel a ‘desert-ship’ is presumably another of their ‘jokes.’ When asked whether they also found riding dromedaries uncomfortable, one of the Berbers we met said something along the lines of “Yes. That is why we don’t ride them. They are for tourists.”
Everyone knows that camels are supposed to be bad-tempered, that they have strange humps and are ugly. Add to this the problem of their extreme uncomfortability, and you have an animal which is almost 100% wrong.
In short, it would probably have been more comfortable for both parties if the camel had ridden on my back. A sad state of affairs indeed.
Image Credit – Quitelucid