Alongside the falcon and ghaf tree, the camel is an iconic symbol of Emirati culture. As one of the few animals that can survive harsh conditions in the desert, they have for centuries played a significant role in the lives of Emirati people. They’re also invaluable for recreation: the annual Al Marmoum camel racing season is now well under way, with a slew of races taking place over the next few weeks. The best news is that events are free to attend (see our Sport & Outdoor events for details).
Those wanting to get to know these dromedaries a little better can now learn about camel training at Al Ain Dairy. But it’s not taught just for fun: according to the owners, you should intend to use these unique skills for work.
Authentic camel whisperer Mubarak Al Hameli acts as a farm consultant for Al Ain Dairy, and is keen to explain how people can learn more about handling camels. Al Ain Dairy farm houses more than 1,300 camels; Mubarak has been working with the animals for years and is considered an expert handler, able to train novices in the ways of camel handling.
‘Camels can be very gentle creatures, or very vicious,’ says Mubarak. ‘If camels have never had contact with humans, especially the males, they can be very aggressive towards people.’
Mubarak learned his trade at a young age, and his family have tended to camels for generations. ‘Ever since I was a little boy, I can remember always being around them,’ he reveals. ‘I’ve always loved them: they are very affectionate and pleasant.’ Although he picked up his skills early on, he says people of any age can be taught how to deal with these dromedaries. Al Ain Dairy even accepts interested parties for internships, which will expose them to all aspects of working with these magnificent creatures. ‘You can learn how to care for them, as well as butcher them,’ Mubarak says with a degree of candour. ‘Camel meat is popular in the UAE.’
Mubarak is apparently well-known within the camel farming community for his ability to train any of the females for milking. Having dealt with the animals since he was young, he is very comfortable with them and has plenty of tips for people wanting to learn more about the best handling methods.
‘You need to be calm when you’re around them. If you’re relaxed, they will be relaxed as well.’ It’s a principle that applies to working with most animals – they often react to body language signals that they deem threatening or dangerous. While Al Ain Dairy’s classes can help, there’s no doubt you’d need to work on a camel farm for a long time to fully understand their behaviour.
Mubarak has some final advice for anyone who encounters a camel in the desert. ‘Never try to approach a camel in the wild,’ he says. ‘If you’re faced with a male, you should run. Their bites can cause serious damage.’
On the other hand, some camels are very docile, especially those that have had contact with humans. These can be lovely creatures to be around, as they are usually fond of affection and kind words. ‘I really love them,’ adds Mubarak. ‘I can’t imagine not seeing them almost every day.’ Al Ain Dairy Farms, Al Ain, www.alaindairyuae.com (03 783 2111).