An Evening with Camels

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

From Moments In Words From Hadhramout by noreply@blogger.com (Omar Barsawad)

Arabian-Camel-800x600

Camels. In Australia they are brutally butchered; not for their meat; not for their skins; but simply because they are considered ‘feral’, ‘pests’ and a ‘problem’. The recent ‘culling’ of camels in Australia’s Northern Territory cost its government about 50,000$; enough money to have dug boreholes for the camels which roam from place to place in search of water. The one humped, Arabian Camels were introduced to the mainly arid Australia, for transport, in the mid 18th Century; but since then, they have rapidly been increasing in numbers. As Australians have no other use for them, they have repeatedly reduced the population of camels, by cruelly shooting them either form planes in the air, or by chasing them on moving vehicles. How barbaric. Had some poor, developing country been doing that to marauding lions or elephants – how would Australians have felt?

Camels should never have been taken to Australia; as people there have no liking for or understanding of the amazing animals. Had Australians understood this wonderful creature, they would have known how to benefit from it; they would have known how to use it; and they would have known how to respect it. Benefit from it; use it; and respect and value it as we do here in Hadhramout. 

African elephants, which I have many times seen at very close range – have always greatly awed and amazed me; and so have camels. A few days ago, I spent an evening with these extraordinary animals. Just a few meters from the center of Al Mukalla, is  a market for camels:

Most people wrongly believe that, as camels mainly live in very arid, hot places, the humps that they have is for storing water. The humps are actually a reservoir of fat; it helps in providing nutrients when needed and in a way helps in controlling heat over the animal’s body.

Camels are born without humps; the hump develops as the camel grows . And as camels use the fat within the humps when they have less food, the hump’s size reduces. Or it increases when the camel has more food. Camels can weigh op to 700 kilograms and can grow up to slightly over 2 meters. They gestate for 11 months; usually giving birth to 1 calf at a time. The young reach adulthood at between 5 to 7 years. A normal life span for a camel is 40 years.

A camel’s hump is a giant mound of fat. In a healthy, well-fed camel, the hump can weigh as much as 35 kilograms. The hump allows a camel to survive an extremely long time without food, if need be.

Camels are cud-chewers. Its mouth is very sturdy enabling it to chew dry, thorny desert plants. Its eyelashes have an interlocking system, of three eye-lids, which automatically shut when necessary; like during sand storms. The first two eye-lids have long eye lashes, which keep out sand; the third eye-lid is transparent and blinks side ways like car wipers, and is transparent allowing camels to see even when their eyes are closed. Its nostrils are shaped to protect it from dust and to trap water vapor and return the vapor to the body during respiration. The ears too, are shaped to protect it from dust and sand. Camels release white salivary stuff when they feel threatened; as the above camel is doing when I got too close to it while taking these photos.

A camel’s neck is long. This enables it to reach leaves and thorns which are high on trees. Its thick, hairy coat reflects sunlight and insulates it from intense desert heat or keeps it warm when it gets cold. Camels are unique: they can survive in extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. Their maintenance is cheap and easy as they can browse and eat a wide range of plant species; and they are very resistant to diseases.

Camels can survive without water or food; depending on the heat and how what luggage it is carrying, a camel can survive for up to 10 days without food or water. If it is cool, it can live even longer without water. In the Sahara, they can go all winter without water.

Camels do not only live in some of the most desolate and inhospitable places on Earth; they thrive there. Where most large animals would perish, camels survive. They are able to do this by their amazing body mechanism and their incredible ability to efficiently use the available resources there; and they are omnivorous and able to eat a most varied type of foods.  

Docile and very good when treated well; camels easily become angry and stubborn when ill treated. No other animal is as endearing to Arabs as the camel; it is said that there are about 160 words for ‘camel’ in the Arabic language. To most Bedouins, camels are a symbol of wealth and strength.

Here, camel meat is cherished; and so is its milk. Both of which, especially its milk – are considered medicinal. Even a camel’s urine is used as medicine for treating hepatitis, cancer, skin diseases, toothache, autism and many other diseases. The urine is also used as an antiseptic. I know for a fact, that women who have used camel urine to wash their hair, their hairs became longer, lighter and more lustrous.

Did you know that camel meat has no fat or cholesterol? As the fat is concentrated on a camel’s hump, its meat is lean and better for us than beef and much better than pork. And did you know that camel’s milk is closer to human milk than cow’s milk and thus better for us? It does not curdle. Is more easily digestible than cow’s milk. It has three times the amount of vitamin C than cow’s milk; is rich in B vitamins and iron.  And it also contains anti-bodies and insulin which can fight diseases.

Able to travel for up to 50 kilometers per day in the harsh, hot deserts; camels have long legs which keep it high from the hot sand. Its feet, with broader hooves than that of horses, has two toes – underneath which are fatty balls of leathery pads or ‘cushions’ which enable it to walk easily on sands. Observe closely at the way camels walk: of all animals, only cats and giraffes are known to walk in the same way – moving both front and back legs on one side of the body and then the other legs on the other side.

Camels are used in all Middle Eastern countries and in many parts of Asia. But, surprisingly, camels’ predecessors are from the Western Hemisphere and they are closely related to llamas, alpacas and vicunas of South America. Did you know that, today, of all people – Somalis, both in Somalia and in Ethiopia, have more camels, per capita, than any other people?

And did you know that, although Arabs use both very well; and love and value both very much, horses detest the smell of camels? In wars, when camels are used against horses – horses are known to become hard to control; and many times they run away from charging camels.

All old great Middle Eastern civilizations, very much depended on camels. The Arabs, the Assyrians, the Persians and the Nabateans all used camels. And so did the Muslim armies that conquered the then super-powers: the Byzantine and the Persian empires in the 7th AD. Whenever one thinks of the Great Prophets of old, camels come to mind. The camel is mentioned several times in the Holly Bible. It is eloquently mentioned in Quran Al Kareem: Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made? ………” Surat al-Ghashiya (17-21).

No other people respect, cherish and value camels as Arabs and Muslims do. No other animal species is as important here as is the camel. It has served us very well before. Is still serving us. And will undoubtedly continue to serve us always. With the present, fast World’s changing climate and as quick as food prices rise – as environmentally friendly a mode of transport as it is; as beneficial a dietary as it is; and as versatile, sustainable and adaptive as it is, the Camel will be a most important part of life here, for as long as it and humans exist.  

12-1

South Florida News, Vol. 8 Iss. 42

October 12, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

“Bravest Woman in the World” Mukhtar Mai to speak at FIU

Miami–Cries heard all ‘round the world came from here, first of shame, then of indignation, and finally cries for justice that were answered despite obstacles.

The South Florida community will get a chance to hear an inside perspective on one of the world’s most widely publicized recent cases of human rights abuse against a Muslim woman on Saturday, Oct. 28 as local South Asian women’s organization Sahara hosts Mukhtaran Mai, named “The Bravest Woman in the World” by Glamour, and one of TIME Magazine’s “100 People Who Shape Our World.”

Gang raped by her local tribal counsel in Pakistan as punishment for a crime allegedly committed by her younger brother, Mai took the tribal council to court and won – making her the first woman in Pakistan to have won such a case.

Since then, she has traveled the world raising awareness about violence against women.

The event will be held at 7 PM at Florida International University’s South Campus. It is also being presented by the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade’s Women’s Advocacy Project, The Asian American Network Against Abuse of Human Rights (ANAA) and Glamour. (For more information, call Sophie Brion at (305) 441-0506 or email sophie@womensfundmiami.org) 

“Many strong and successful efforts have been made to develop our group,” says Brion of Sahara, the fledgling group aimed at helping to faciliate minority and immigrant women’s social services in the area for about a year now. “Sahara has collaborated with several organizations and has received assistance in fundraising, outreach efforts to the South Florida community, and with direct services to assist victims of domestic violence. We hope to continue to grow and reach our goals to assist Asian women in distress.”

In August 2006, Sahara established a phone help-line where victims can leave a message for one of the group’s counselors, who can then provide them assistance and direct them towards resources & services. The phone number for the hotline is 1-866-567-7635. A training session for those interested in becoming phone counselors was held on Friday, Sept. 15 at the local Safe Place Shelter, and the group continues to seek more volunteers.

The group’s most recent general body meeting was held on Sept. 18 at the home of one of their Muslim volunteer couples, the Shakir family, and it has organized a number of other events and activities over the summer. It also has a new website up at www.saharafl.org, which is being renovated with the help of SFINdians.com.

“Wow, the amount of growth/progress with this group is really impressive,” said Sahara volunteer and local social worker Syeda Naqvi. “I remember attending the second meeting or so when the idea was being hashed out and look at it now.”

Turkish Cultural Center hosts 2nd Interfaith Dinner

Ft. Lauderdale–South Florida’s youngest Muslim cultural organization continued to make in-roads with local community leaders this month, as The Anatolia Cultural Center (ACC) held its 2nd Annual Interfaith Dialogue Dinner on October 5 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriot North.

The event brought together a wide of range of speakers and guests from various faith backgrounds including: Richard Agler, senior rabbi at the Congregation B’nai Israel, Jack Noble, senior pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Pompano Beach, Cengiz Alacaci, associate professor of Mathematics Education at Florida International University, and George Earhart, paster at Shepherd of the Coast Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale.

In the vein of the three year old ACC’s monthly Turkish coffee nights, the evening Including presentations, dinner, dessert and conversation. Organizers made a special point that the event was not a fund-raising dinner.

“Our faith is a significant part of our culture and the ACC is dedicated to promote mutual understanding and respect between people of different faiths,” said the center’s director Mustafa Sahin. “The Annual Interfaith Dialog Dinners bring leaders of various faith-based organizations together opening the doors to conversation and tolerance.”

The Other Side of “Normal”

Everyday reflections of a young Muslim social worker

By Syeda Feiza Naqvi,
Special to TMO

Funny how we have the capacity to become so jaded that even the abnormal comes to wear the face of “normalcy”. Working as the supervisor of volunteers at the Guardian ad Litem Program, I see a lot in an “average” day…or rather, hear a lot. But my second encounter with the same exact prostitute, in the same exact week, at the same exact gas station has made me reflect on just how wide a gulf there is between who I am today vs. who I was three years ago, when I first got my job.

“Yesterday” the sight of the billboard sign on the way to work was enough to make me quake in my shoes and seriously question whether I even wanted to go for the interview. ‘Twas no ordinary billboard sign, oh no: it was one that showed the picture of a serial rapist, asking for any info on his whereabouts.

But today, I look at a prostitute and can tell, immediately, that she’s on a high from a recent “date” with a joint or two. I can’t pick up the familiar smell of weed on her (oh yes, I have come to know that scent quite well by now), but her strung out appearance and tipsy steps give her away. She is all angles, and taut skin, but I can still see the last, faint vestige of beauty on her face. She could have been…must have been, beautiful once. Now she trades on those remnants for food, pointing to a sandwich as a price for her time.

And I just walk on, about my business, as if all of this is normal.

I’ve seen too many parents, too many adults, fall victim to their passions, obsessions, addictions, to believe in the capacity to save any of these lost souls. Because I know too well the underbelly of their deeds: the innocent children who are neglected or abused or severely endangered as a result.

Sometimes it scares me, the dark sense of humor that lurks within me, making note of the stupid, stupid ironies existent in some of these cases: the junkie mother who, ironically, works as a substance abuse counselor at a local college; the huge, buff, drug dealer father reduced to tears, as if he’s five, because he’s scared silly by the machinations and aggression of his tiny, pencil-thin wife; the mother who comes to court and tells the judge that she thinks she’s being followed by aliens…

Sigh.

I think a sense of humor is a necessary coping skill, because you either have to laugh or just put your head down and CRY.

I’ve driven past the scene of a break-in/shooting at the same grocery store about three times now. Note to self: never go grocery shopping in THAT particular store.

And none of it even registers anymore…it’s like the backdrop to a very normal, very average day.

None of the cases I get surprise me anymore….child raped by father? Been there, done that. Kids beaten up by parents? Happens all the time. Schizo mother unable to care for kids? Please, what else is new? Criminal parents with violent tempers? Lord, who ISNT a criminal, tell me that? Domestic violence disputes? Sigh. Lost causes. ‘Cause you know the woman is just going to go back to her no good husband.

What particularly amuses me is how people continue to underestimate me, until I open my mouth in court.

Oh, these parents. They just never learn.

They see the hijab and assume I’m some submissive, meek, nice type, and it ends up costing them. I imagine it’s rather like thinking you are talking to a nun, only to have her whip the habit off suddenly, catching you off guard.

They seem so stunned.

Well, good…if that’s the wake up call they need to get their act together, then fine, so be it.

Syeda Feiza Naqvi is a local writer, a leading veteran of local and regional Muslim organizations. For more info on how to serve as the voice for an abused child, please go to www.nationalcasa.org.