Making Friends with the Genus Camelus

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Word by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

So, my first encounter with camels while in Morocco didn’t go so well.

I was hissed at. I saw teeth in a growly, show-offy kinda way.

But I wasn’t discouraged. I wanted another chance to change my experience and outlook, to hopefully smooth things over between myself and the genus Camelus. Pete and I were set to ride again, this time in the majestic Wadi Rum of southwest Jordan.

Dalene in desert

I was more prepared to face my Jordanian camel, after being surprisingly scorned by his Moroccan cousin. I looked the part – wrapped up in traditional head gear and all. I’m guessing I even sweated off five pounds the previous day as we made our way through Petra, so my new camel couldn’t complain too much about the burden of my load.

He didn’t complain, he didn’t seem to pay me mind at all and was completely indifferent to my presence. He and I were in a caravan of many – a troop of four humans and an entire family of the camelid persuasion. We rode upon the big daddy, his son, and two of his “lady friends”, while a pair of wee four month-old babes followed us the entire way. We headed off into the Valley of the Moon for tea and to watch the dramatic desert sun set.

I was grateful to have no lingering camel-issues, I wanted nothing to distract me from this:

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Valley of the Moon, Jordan

Our convoy was a silently smooth ride led by a friendly Bedouin whose playful nature with his beloved camels was so endearing to watch. There was the odd traffic jam when the baby camels would run up to be near their mothers, sometimes almost tangling in the lead ropes that held us all together. Other times they followed at a distance, or playfully chased each other beside us, their frolicking fuzzy bodies casting long shadows on the bright orange of the desert.

Baby camels, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Camel, Wadi Rum, Jordan

After an hour of riding we stopped, and I helped our guide gather dry branches to make a fire so that we could enjoy a cup of tea while we watched the final moments of the descending sun. Although delicious, the heat of the tea was too much for me, and I refused a second cup. “La shokran (no thank you),” I said, in my feeble Arabic.

His response was well beyond my comprehension, but he said it with a large toothy grin on his face. “He said that you are sweet as honey,” Muhammad translated. I smiled (and most probably blushed) gratefully in return.

Bedouin guide, Wadi Rum, Jordan

As the sun’s rays weakened behind the jagged rocks in the distance, we packed up to begin our ride back to camp. My camel, who had been banished away from the others for causing trouble amongst them, watched me carefully as I approached. I reached out to him, and he let me gently stroke his cheek, even leaning into it for a deeper rub.

Had I made a new friend? Probably not, everybody’s got an itch that needs scratching every once in awhile.

But I’ll take it.

Camel, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Of course you do!

Here’s a short video of our time in spectacular Wadi Rum:


Our adventure in Wadi Rum was arranged by Visit Jordan. As always, the opinions we express are our own.

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  1. Beautiful photos as usual! Riding a camel is always interesting no matter how many times you have done it. They are just strange creatures, but so cute!

  2. I’ve always liked camels. I begged my mom to let me ride at the zoo. Every. Single. Time. So I was thrilled when Tim told me we’d be doing a camel trek through Wadi Rum.

    After our 3 hour ride, raw skin from our pants rubbing, and the scars a year later, we came to the conclusion that long haul camel riding is not for us. 😉

  3. Beautiful pics. Loved your video & those little ones are so sweet. I bet they’d love some green,green grass from home.

  4. I don’t know who decided that camels would make a good animal to ride on, but they should seriously be committed to an institution somewhere. Riding on those animals doesn’t look even the least bit comfortable. I mean, I suppose it’s better than walking, but not by much.

  5. I almost had my hand bit off by a camel at a petting zoo. His name was Ollie. It was awesome… 🙂

    Oh, and great post too! Hoping to get to Jordan and various other parts of Northern Africa soon!

  6. I was a bit scared before riding a camel (especvially getting on and off!) but ended up absolutely LOVING it. The only down side is the potential slobber but I urge everyone to try a camel ride. Fantastic photos too!

  7. I love your amazing gift for pulling your readers right into your adventures with you, and the video made it even easier to share in. Great post and amazing photos as always – such rich colous and textures – especially like the camels legs over the rippling sands 🙂

  8. just found your blog,must i admire what you did to travel the world,very few can make that decision,i look forward to see the travels through your eyes and share your still wondering how you made such good friends with your camel…or maybe it saw you sweet as honey as its owner 🙂

  9. Best post on your site, no question. You can only go down from here. Or you can keep writing posts on camels and keep going up 🙂

  10. That is some epic camely goodness – great photos as always 😀

    As an aside, if you ever want an insight into the mind of the camel, I can recommend Terry Pratchetts book “Pyramids”. It explains a lot 😉

  11. Totally awesome photos. Those camels are massive posers! I rode one in Dubai and found it pretty unnerving how much they wobble. I also drank its milk immediately after milking. I wouldn’t advise that!

    1. Thanks Arianwen. I’ve heard that camel milk is quite tasty, although, now I’ve heard not immediately after milking 😉

  12. While in Spain for a study abroad program, we took a day trip to Tangier. At the beginning of the day our guide told us we would stop to ride camels, which of course excited us. But when we arrived, it turned out “ride” really meant “sit on for just long enough for your friend to snap a picture.” They were still cool to see though. I’m glad you had a better time with this one than the previous time. Amazing photos!

  13. It must surely have been one great experience to be on a joyride on one of those beautiful lovely camels. These camels seem a bit different to those I have seen here in India though, these are much more furry… A beautiful post:)

  14. I can’t find enough ways to love this post! It must have been an incredible experience.

    1. They were adorable, always racing to get in front, then falling behind because they were playing or eating. So cute. Thanks Amanda!

  15. I’ve seen a lot of posts about riding camels and by far, you guys have the most beautiful photos.

    Glad you were able to have a non-spitting, non-grumpy camel this time. 🙂

  16. I so wish I could have been there with my camera. What an adventure!!! Great photos, too.

  17. The babies are adorable – so fluffy! But when I managed to tear myself away, I fell in love with the next picture. Really great shot, guys!

  18. As usual your pics are beautiful and the camel article halarious. Love reading your blog! We rode camels in Australia and the one behind my husband kept biting him in rear-end. Probably because we had just eaten camel at a coctail/tasting before the ride (I think he smelled it on us). Did you have any reservations or fear about being in Jordan with all the turmoil in the middle east right now? I would really love to go, but with anti-american sentiment so high, I’m a little apprehensive. Did you experience any problems with that?

    1. Hi Susan, we had absolutely no reservations or fear about going to Jordan. We knew there were troubles in some of the neighboring countries, and we asked our guide if any of these conflicts had spilled over into Jordan. The answer was simply “no”. In fact Jordan is a country where many people come to for refuge.

      And we certainly did not feel any Anti-American sentiment. We are often mistaken as Americans and we were welcomed wherever we went. The people are some of the warmest folks we have met. Now it is up to us to spread this word and to try and break down any hesitation people have for visiting this area of the world.

  19. Mm stunning shots. I’ve always wanted to do the Lawrence of Arabia thing in Wadi Rum. I have leftover camel issues after an experience in India but I’m nearly ready to give it another go.

    1. Thanks Ashley. I agree with you that there is so little time, we often say we are the slowest travelers in the world, and we have so many experiences left that we want to do. If only they can make a life “pause” button… I hope the day comes when you can ride a camel. It is a lot of fun being up so high in the desert.

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