camel of the day 30-11-2019

We saw palanquins laid out en masse for the Hajj pilgrimage in Camel of the Day 18-11-2019, also from the Matson collection. But this one, to me at least, appears very different.  It sits further back on the hump, for starters, so that there’s room outside the palanquin for luggage.  The luggage blocking passenger exit at the front suggests that the passengers here are more comfortable with camel-riding than are the pilgrims on Hajj.  These people are in no hurry to get off.

This palanquin is also far narrower than the pilgrims’ ones. Perhaps if you’re used to the life and the rhythm of riding camelback, you don’t get so uncomfortable and fidgety.

For all these reasons, I think the anonymous missionaries who took and titled this shot were accurate rather than merely reflexively racist in calling it “natives travelling on camel-back”. 

But there are two more telling pieces of evidence that convince me that these are travelling people rather than Hajjists.

Firstly (maybe this is only my perception – feel free to let me know if you have expertise in cameline physiognimical science and doubt me) this camel actually looks happy, unlike its Meccan counterparts.

Secondly, this one’s been decorated.  Not only in the sense that it’s carrying the kind of brightly coloured strings and baubles that camels are often decorated with.


But in the sense of carrying a bell. 

A camel carrying a bell was – when travelling in a herd – the one that the camels around it had judged best at finding food and water.  That is, the bell was the human recognition of the rank the camel had already attained amongst its peers, and added to that rank by making it easier to follow for camel and human alike. 

We are, I think, looking at a born leader.

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