The camel market in Al Ain. The camels with the strips of lace around their bodies are used for dairy farming as they are a superior breed. The camel population in the UAE in 2003 was more than 178,000. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The UAE is historically known for its attachment to camels which are of social and economic value in the region.

The animal is famously known as the ship of the desert because of its walk, which is much like the motion of a ship at sea. Patience is one of its most observable features and camels are generally useful animal.

Historically, camels in the UAE were a dependable source of not only transport but also food and milk.

Arabs were proud of the number of camels they possessed.

The camels were given as a bride's dowry among the Bedouin tribes. Not to mention its use as payment of Zakat — the annual portion of a Muslim's personal fortune that is given as charity to people in need — as which was at times paid in camels instead of money.

The population of camels in the UAE in 2003 was estimated at over 178,000, according to the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage.

Types of camels

There are two types of camels. The dromedary, an Arabian camel, is a large even-toed ungulate with has one hump while the bactrian, also known as Asian camel, has two humps.

The dromedary camel is one of the best known types. Other similar animals are the Llama and the Alpaca in South America.

In Arabic culture, a camel is assigned a different name every year. For example, a one-year-old camel is called ‘Hewar' while a two-year-old camel is called ‘Fateem'. The name keeps changing and the camel is known as ‘Haj' at three years of age.

The other names for the subsequent ages are ‘Liggi' (four years old), ‘Yethea' (five years old) and ‘Thani' (six years old).

A male camel that is six years old can also be called ‘Baeer' while a female camel of the same age can also be known as ‘Nagah'.

The best-known breeds of Arabian camels found in the UAE are the ‘Misk', ‘Dhabian' and ‘Shtoota' breeds.

In earlier times, camels were used in caravans and were loaded with various supplies such as food and dates, wood and plants.

During that time, camels roamed the deserts of the country. In summer they were used to transport families from the humid coast to cooler oases.

However, the camel still has an important role in UAE society, with many Bedouin families still owning a few animals that provide milk and are sacrificed during festivals.

Camel skin is used locally to make shoes, bags and water containers. Its wool, which is commonly considered of high quality, was commonly used in the Arab world for tent and rug-making, besides being fashioned into clothes.

Nowadays the camel is essentially used for racing that is held annually during the winter months and based on the selected breed of non-dairy camel.


Camel racing is considered to be a very popular activity among UAE community members.

The heritage of camel racing was regularly promoted by Shaikh Zayed and is still enjoys the patronage of the current rulers of the country.

The Al Ain Camel Market is one place that best shows how much the UAE cares for the animals.