Last week I visited a Bedouin friend in Al Shaqiyah dunes. The young mechanical engineering graduate showed me around his tourist desert camp, invited me for a traditional lunch and took me on a spooky sand bashing tour.
But what caught my eyes as a city boy was not the swathe of red sands or the undisturbed quietness of the deserts, but a white baby camel that happily allowed me to pet it.
In Muscat, I am used to playing with cats and dogs — they are small, cute, intimate and found everywhere in the capital.
Here in the vast sea of sand, they have camels which are just as cute and cuddly but a lot bigger.
Coming back home, I was thinking of how Bedouins could profit further from this animal that provides milk and meat and serves as a great tourist attraction. And it led to an interesting conversation with Ahmed Nasser Al Junaibi, general editor of Camels magazine, who is taking this age-old business to a whole new level.
One of his company’s (4dmedia) key future projects is implanting an electronic chip in the camel’s skin so a herder can trace his animals and navigate their location in the wide deserts.
“We believe this idea will help 70 per cent of Bedouin herders to locate their animals. They can know if their camels are close to a road too so they can help prevent any dangers,” Al Junaibi said.
“We are working on finding a chip that can resist the harsh weather conditions of the desert and run on a long-life battery or, if possible, on kinetic energy,” he explained.
Al Junaibi said the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries fixed chips in camels for the purpose of identification and registration, but the Sultanate did not have a camel navigation system yet.
“Our product is still pending because we are waiting for official approvals and licences. The chip will be connected to a mobile app that will allow users to pinpoint the location,” he said, adding that the main challenge they were facing was weak connectivity in the deserts.
Al Junaibi stressed that the camel is the “food security animal” of the future but the country is not tapping the animal’s full potential.
“They (camels) produce milk and dairy products, we can use their bones to create sculptures and other handmade souvenirs, their meat, their skin for leather chairs and belts and more,” he said.
Al Junaibi said 4dmedia also invested in turning camel milk into ice cream and chocolates, pointing out that camels in Dhofar were known for producing a larger quantity of milk.
His magazine, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Royal Camel Court, Al Bashaer Arab Camel Circle and Oman Camel Racing Federation, is organising the first scientific symposium on camels on January 10 at Sultan Qaboos University.
“The symposium will highlight the latest research and studies on camels and how to prevent and treat diseases,” he explained.
In tourism, camels proved to be a major attraction for western visitors, according to Al Junaibi.
He is organising a four-day camel riding tour in December (Hida Al Sahra). It is set to start on December 15. ν