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The Grassfields of Cameroon



The Land
- The Great Sahara Desert
- The Biggest Desert
- Blown Dry
- More than Sand Dunes
- Window to the Past
- The Tuareg
  - Introduction
  - Traditional life
  - Camels
  - Salt
  - Oasis
  - Clothing
  - Women
  - Writing and song
- Two ways to count to 10

Camels can cross deserts

Over 2,000 years ago, people brought domesticated camels to the Sahara from the Middle East. Camels were ideal for life in the desert because they ate dry, tough food like acacia thorns and could go for long stretches without drinking. Without camels, centuries of desert caravan trade would never have happened.

Even today, trucks are not practical camel-substitutes for many traders. Trucks, gas and maintenance are expensive. And out in the desert, it's usually easier to replace a camel than a mechanical part.

But they can't drink alone

Camels can't survive in the Sahara without human help. Although they can smell the water in wells, camels can't get water for themselves. Unless people draw water for them, camels will die.

Camels drink as only camels can

A camel can go without drinking longer than any other domestic animal. In the cooler part of the year, a camel may not drink water for up to six months - it gets all the moisture it needs from its food. Even during the blazing hot summer months, a camel may drink only once a week. A camel conserves water so well that it can lose up to 40 percent of its body weight and still live. When camels drink, they consume enormous amounts of water at one time. A very thirsty camel-such as one just off a long, hot caravan-can gulp 35 gallons (135 1) of water in six minutes. One record-holding camel drank more than 50 gallons (200 1) in one day.

How well do you know the camel?

Play the CAMEL FACTS flashcard game.

Test your knowledge of the camel!

The flashcard game uses a Java applet and requires Netscape 3.0 or the equivalent.


CAS home   Images of camels from University of Pennsylvania multimedia database.