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A working animal providing rides for tourists, the camel or dromedary (only the number of humps is different) is the joy of all visitors to Essaouira, big or small. There are many camels at the end of the beach and their masters offer rides alone or as a family; but beware of seasickness: the camel has not been named “the ship of the desert” for nothing!
Long before modern techniques of transportation were available, like boats, trains or planes, goods like feathers, stones, salt etc., used to cross the desert and Africa on camel or dromedary’s backs, especially the goods coming from Sub Saharan Africa coming to Essaouira, the « Timbuktu harbour ». Right until the beginning of the 20th century, the town of Essaouira, surrounded with dunes (their reforestation took place between 1916 and 1960), welcomed the caravaneers and their load of goods bound for sailing to Europe mainly.
Dromedaries can also be found in Essaouira neighbouring countryside either in the fields turning the soil or on the paths transporting goods.
The first use of the dromedary was pack saddling, surely linked to the spice trade very flourishing then between the south of the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean region, a caravan trade that in fact favoured the birth of some glorious civilizations. History recalls that the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon in 955 B.C. arrived in an impressive caravan of dromedaries carrying the royal suite effects after having crossed the Arabian Desert. The dromedary arrived in North Africa round the Sinai at the beginning of the Christian era. It is thought that the first use of the dromedary to pull the plow was established in Northern Africa at the time of the Roman era.
The dromedary is of a species close to the camel, different from it by its only hump and more common in Africa. The broadly used name is “camel” used indifferently for both species. The Koran says: «As long as a camel does not pass through the eye of a needle, the non-believer will not enter Paradise” Better say never!
An Arab tradition tells that the camel or the female camel (or the dromedary!) has all the qualities of sobriety, stamina and speed needed to adapt to life in the desert; which explains why Bedouins and nomadic people adopted this animal. Besides, the etymology of “camel” speaks of “the one who runs”!