Valuable Desert-Dwellers of Algeria

Camel trekking is a popular way of exploring Algeria’s desert regions. Perfectly adapted to arid and exposed conditions, camels are true nomads of the Sahara Desert. Camels were domesticated thousands of years ago and continue to be used as transport, as they are able to travel where no vehicle can, while carrying heavy loads of supplies and human passengers. They are also used as working animals and are a source of milk, clothing and food for their keepers.

Camels found in Algeria are the one-humped Dromedary or Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius), while the two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is found in Asian regions, including the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts. The word ‘camel’ is taken from the Arabic term for ‘beauty’ and to the people who depend on camels to transport and provide them with food, they are no doubt beautiful. Here are some interesting facts about these valuable desert-dwellers.

Contrary to common belief, a camel’s hump is not for storing water, but consists of fat which helps to insulate the animal from the extreme temperatures experienced in desert conditions. Moreover, their coats reflect sunlight which helps to keep them cool. Camels can go for extended periods without drinking water because their red blood cells are oval-shaped allowing their circulation to continue even when dehydrated, as opposed to all other mammals that have red blood cells which clump together when dehydrated. When camels have access to water, they can drink up to 40 gallons of the life-giving liquid at a time. Their lips are split to assist them to graze on rough foliage and thorny twigs without being injured. If they manage to find green foliage to eat, this will provide them with the moisture they need.

The shape of a camel’s nostrils allows the animal to retain water vapor which is returned to the body, thereby minimizing fluid loss. They are able to close their nostrils against wind-driven sand when needed and their exceptionally long eyelashes protect their eyes in a sandstorm. While camels are not prey animals, they do have a defense mechanism where they spit a large quantity of smelly green fluid from the contents of their stomach all over anyone or anything they consider to be a threat.

The regular camel markets held at El Oued and Tamanrasset are worth checking out if you want to see large numbers of these fascinating animals, and camel-trekking offers an exciting way of exploring some of Algeria’s more remote and otherwise inaccessible regions.