Despite all they have done for humanity, camels have been swept aside by twentieth century’s rapid modernisation. Their prominent role in the daily lives of Arabs and other civilisations has been dramatically reduced along with the desert ecosystems that harboured them. In the modern imagination, camels accessorise Orientalist and racist depictions of the Middle East in general and Arabs in particular. This denigration of the camel is evident even in Edward Said’s landmark Orientalism, a book dedicated to undoing the degrading depictions of the region: “Arabs, for example, are thought of as camel­-riding, terroristic, hook-nosed, venal lechers whose undeserved wealth is an affront to real civilisation.”


This book seeks to reclaim the camel and restore its identity as the treasure of the desert. Author Aditi Belame Kumar traces the role camels have played in the history of the UAE and the special bond between them and Arab civilisation. Their frequent use as a metaphor reflects their special significance in the culture of the world’s desert lands. For instance, “ḥumr an-naʿam,” the Arabic term for the finest camels, “is applied to anything highly prized, precious, valuable or excellent.”


Kumar shines a spotlight on camel-racing, a billion-dirham industry that since its explosion in the 1970s has dominated the national cultural scene and attracted a global audience. More importantly, the sport has preserved the sacred status of the camel. Beyond the racetrack, the burgeoning camel industry—which includes not just dairies and meat but also beauty contests—has furnished the lovable camel with  renewed purpose. 


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Aditi Belame Kumar was born in Bangalore, South India. She migrated with her parents to the UAE when she was three years old. After completing her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in the United States, she earned an MBA from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She is currently living in Dubai. Ḥumr An-Naʿam, Treasure of the Desert is her first book.


A long time resident of the UAE, Wouter Kingma is a commercial and editorial photographer and filmmaker who creates stories for branding agencies and international lifestyle brands. Wouter is passionate about capturing the beauty of the Arabia, whether be it through shooting desert landscapes, iconic architecture or the region’s magnificent history and heritage, so tightly woven into the fabric of the Middle East. 


The Dreamwork Collective FZ-LLC is a boutique media house, based in Dubai, specialis-ing in the publication and distribution of print   books, online content, and trainings. It provides writers, creatives, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the Middle East an opportunity to share their work with a global audience and have a greater impact in the lives of others.

Humr An-Na'am © 2020