Thursday, May 5, 2016

Visit camels at Bahrain's Royal Camel Farm

photograph of a camel in Bahrain's royal camel farm blog

Just off the Janabiyah Highway there are hundreds of camels. You can find big camels, baby camels, and camels sitting, standing, eating, and rolling around in the sand trying to scratch their back or, er, hump.

We all know that camels were once used, and in some places still are, by the Bedouin and other nomadic peoples as beasts of burden because of how well they are adapted to surviving in the desert. Just what the Royal Camel Farm is for is a bit more of a mystery. Websites claim that it was established by a sheikh and exists to maintain a camel population in Bahrain. A man who tended to the camels at the farm told us a different story.

In fact the whole visit was an experience in contradictions, I guess something not too surprising when you live in this part of the world. At the entrance, a sign stated “Stop! Private Property,” but we were waved on in and there were tourists milling about. A notice board put up by security asked visitors to please keep a safe distance from the camels, but you could see people petting them and attempting to take selfies. (Camelfies anyone? No?)

As my friend and I walked between the chained male camels on one side of the farm and the calves and mothers on the other, we came across a farm worker sitting down with a couple camels who were munching away at alfalfa. And even though security warned against feeding them, he said it was fine if we did. I asked him if all these camels were for racing and he said, “No, they are for eating.” I asked him to explain and he said that the camels were slaughtered for consumption on special occasions such as Eid. How lovely. Why couldn’t there be signs warning visitors from making emotional attachments? My friend went on enthusiastically reminding me how great he thought camel milk is because it cleans out your system, but all I could think about were the camels eating feed a stall over that dropped food on each other’s heads as they bent down to eat their feed. So stupid! So innocent! But hey, one man’s camel is another man’s turkey. Next Thanksgiving I’ll just have to think about baby turkeys and their mothers and contemplate going vegetarian.

You can reach the Royal Camel Farm from Saudi Arabia by taking the first exit off the King Fahd Causeway. You will merge onto the 101 and come to Wali Al Ahd Highway. Turn right on to Janabiyah Highway. Turn left at the first intersection to come to the farm. Admission is free. The farm is open all day, every day.

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