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Monday, December 13, 2010

Camels and Customs

I just finished a manuscript, another biographical historical novel set in Cyprus. The heroine goes to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) to pay tribute to the sultan. She is met at the city gates by one of the sultan’s men, who has brought a line of camels to transport the queen and her ladies to the palace. To write this scene, I had to research camels—their saddles and accoutrements as well as their personalities. I learned that camel milk is a staple in the diets of nomads. The milk is richer in fat and protein content than cow milk is. The hump, which one of my grade school teachers said was filled with water, is actually a fatty deposit, but the makeup of their internal system is such that they can go without food and water beyond the time another animal would have died. Their heavy coats reflect the heat and help to keep them cool. Camels have been used for centuries, for carrying men and supplies, for racing, and in warfare, as late as WWII.

Camels are prized possessions in some countries, and Arabian camel saddles are often adorned with brilliant colors. Saddle bags fringed with tassels are hung down each side of the camel and can be used for transporting goods and personal possessions. On some occasions the camel may be decorated with necklaces, chest bands, knee covers, a fanny pack over the hind quarters and drapes hung from their shoulders. I’ve never ridden a camel, but I was told they have a gentle sway, totally unlike a ride on a horse.

12 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joyce,

I enjoyed your article on camels. You're an excellent researcher! Do they still have camel races in Australia?

Rebbie Macintyre said...

Part of the fun is the research, isn't it? And you're great at it! Thanks for the post, Joyce!

Terry Odell said...

There's a very famous author who had a sex scene on camelback. I think she should have taken the time to do the research you did!

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Jackie: Gee, camel races in Australia? I knew they did race camels, and knowing those Aussies, I'll bet the sport is alive and well.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Rebbie: I agree, the research is fun. I can get lost in it, then realize I went WAY beyond what I needed to for my manuscript. I can waste hours....

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Terry: This is most amazing. I never read that book, and besides, isn't it a long way to the ground if you fell off? Thanks for stopping by. You always shed a new light on the subject!

Maeve said...

Great post, Joyce! I've always heard that camels are moody beasts that are prone to nipping and spitting. Did your research support that or have the poor camels just gotten a bad rap in the books I've read?

Margaret Tanner said...

Great article Joyce. I always thought of camels as dirty smelly creatures, now I will have to re-think my opinion of them. I do recall that they were once called ships of the desert.


cheers

Margaret

Demitria said...

I actually rode on a camel when I was in Australia...but not in a race!

demitrialunetta.blogspot.com

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Maeve: Well, I guess they're like dogs--some will bite, if provoked, while others let kids climb all over them and don't bat an eye. Maybe the same with camels, you think? Thanks for dropping by. Always nice to hear from you.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Margaret: I guess it depends on how they're kept, but I suspect a sultan's camels were treated like racehorses are today--air conditioning and all. Glad you stopped by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Demitria: Thanks for stopping by our blog. Gee, a camel ride. So I guess you're the one to ask--is the ride a gentle sway, like camel lovers say?