Riding Camels in Egypt
Camels get bad press in the West; often condemned as odorous, aggressive beasts that howl and fire phlegm unprovoked.
But in reality, Camels are loyal, docile (unless rutting males) and intelligent creatures well respected by their Bedouin masters.
They were Mohammed’s favoured animal and are an integral part of the Egyptian landscape.
What’s more they provide an excellent vehicle for exploring the country’s mountains, wadis and deserts. Infact, riding camels in Egypt is a great way to travel.
You will likely be offered camel rides in a number of places during your journey.
Some are distinctly better than others.
At the Giza Pyramids, Cairo – Most notorious for the unscrupulous touts that lurk here, the Pyramids have to rank high as one of the worst places for riding camels in Egypt, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you may disembark your steed significantly less wealthy than when you got on.
It is well know that you can get on a camel quite cheaply in Giza, but it will cost you a great deal more to get off. Once up high the camel hands have you captive until negotiations can be concluded in the owners favour.
Moreover however, a 15 minute jaunt through one of the country’s most crowded spots is hardly the best way to enjoy the experience. Any photo opportunities or desert vistas are tainted by the ubiquitous tour buses that abound. Read more about the Pyramids at Giza.
St Simeon’s Monastery, Aswan – If you make the Nile crossing to its Western shores around Aswan, you’ll be met by a number of laidback camel touts and their snoozing herds.
It makes a fairly pleasant experience to mount a camel here and skirt the desert fringe to St Simeon’s Monastery and the Tomb of Aga Khan. No more than a one hour round trip and good introduction to the saddle.
Read more about St Simeon's Monastery
Along the Beach in Dahab, Nuweiba, Hurghada or Sharm – This might suit the habitually lazy (or stoned!) traveller who can stray no further than the seashore to ride a camel.
But there are better rides in the region. All of these resorts sit a stone’s throw from the edge of the desert where superior camel riding routes are to be found.
Up Mount Sinai – If you’re really brave you might just choose to climb Mount Sinai by camel?
Actually you’ll still need to walk the final hundred or so steps to peak, but you can do the bulk of the climb sitting in the saddle.
Most don’t plan to climb by camel but do so instead when they run out of steam and opt to believe the Bedouin herder when he claims ‘still very long way to go, how about an air conditioned taxi?’
Vertigo may come in to play however as there are a number of sheer edges along the route. Suffers would do better to walk here.
In the Desert! – By far the best way to enjoy camel riding in Egypt is to ride them the way they were meant to be ridden; slowly and though the desert.
It’s only here, trotting in relative solitude to the gentle rhythm of the desert that one can quickly understand why these were Mohammed’s favourite creatures.
So still interested in riding camels in Egypt? Here's how?
You don’t need to look very far to arrange a camel riding trip in Egypt and more often than not you will be approached directly by camel guides. You can book through reputable tour operators and travel agencies in any major resort or town or direct through a man with a camel.
Middle men (touts) are best avoided as they will simply take a commission to lead you to an overpriced provider (ream more about touts in egypt).
Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin - In the rare instances when accidents do occur they usually do so at take off or landing i.e. when the camel moves to stand or sit.
So key to staying safe is to ensure that you are properly mounted before this occurs.
You don’t control jack - Don’t be under any illusions that you are controlling the camel. It may respond to the odd ‘left’ or ‘right’ tug on reigns but ultimately it’ll do what it wants, or what its owner tells it to do.
Therefore it’s probably best not to go galloping off into the desert alone. It’s all fun and games until you need to stop.
Ride like a Bedouin, not a horse! The temptation for camel virgins is to allow the legs to dangle to either side like a horse rider might. For lasting comfort in the saddle it’s best to wrap one or two legs around the saddle post in front of you. Then allow your body to move back in forth in rhythm with the camels.
If a camel looks mangy, unfed or poorly treated it’s probably because it is. Steer clear and reward those that care for their creatures with you custom.
The earliest camel remains are to be found in North America from where they are believed to have emigrated some 38 millions years ago crossing the Bering Straights into Asia.
Other camels headed south to modern day Latin America and became llamas, alpacas and guanacos and vicuñas.
Camels in Egypt have just one hump (dromedaries) unlike their Asian cousins that have two (the Bactrian). If the creature is healthy the hump should be firm and tall. In unhealthy camels the hump can sag or even disappear.
Camels can live up to 40 years and go without a drink for more than a month
Camels do not store water in their hump. The reasons camels can go so long without a drink is a combination of the following:
They pee less and excrete less water within their urine.
They sweat less and not until they reach 105 degree Fahrenheit.
When they sweat they draw the water from their muscles and not from their blood like humans do. This means that a camel can lose ¼ body weight with no issues.
A camel can drink up to 25 gallons in 10 minutes
Why is a camel always smiling?
According to the Islamic myth, there are 100 names for God and Mohammed knew them all. He revealed only 99 to the world, but the last he told only to his camel.