04 December 2012

Tall in the Saddle

A question arose of interest only to myself, or possibly to the world’s small band of camel fanciers. Why was every camel saddle in Tunisia very different from those I’d experienced before? It nagged at me, despite my less-than-enlightened companions dismissing my query as frivolous and ignorant: it seemed the only logical arrangement to them.

See look of "WTF?" on my face; photo BDM November 2012

The language barrier precluded intense discussion with camel handlers who—obviously—used the model they were born to, unaware of other variations.

Each encounter puzzled me more. Riders were set behind the dromedary’s hump instead of on top. At first I thought it was because they expect an adult to be taking a child in front. Or two adults sharing the ride. But no. The wooden harness contraption for safety sits on the hump with the blankets for seating arranged aft, back to the animal’s tail.

South Arabian saddle; photo BDM November 2012

To whom would I turn to answer this vexing question? None other than my friend Doug Baum of Texas Camel Corps. Not only is he a storehouse of camel lore and tour guide extraordinaire, but it turns out he’s also a renowned saddle expert among his international peers. What I was experiencing was the South Arabian saddle. As opposed to the North Arabian saddle commonly used in Egypt and Jordan. Quite a difference.

Dear companions, I am herewith vindicated.

South Arabian saddles, Petra camel station; photo BDM November 2008
Photo Amanda Smith,November 2012

Mind you, I did find some Tunisian handlers who were amenable to what I considered the better seat.  

Didn’t I tell you it was only of interest to myself?  

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