THE SHIP OF THE DESERT1
Of all animals under the sun, perhaps the very ugliest is the camel; but life in the deserts of Africa and Arabia could not go on at all without the constant presence of this clumsy-looking creature. Some African tribes keep camels entirely for the use of their milk and flesh; and it is noticeable that these animals are much shyer and more timid than their brothers in Syria and Arabia, who will instantly come trotting up to any fresh camel that appears on the scene, or obey the call of any Bedouin, even if he is a stranger.
In general, the camel is merely employed as a beast of burden, and from this he gets his name of the ' ship of the desert.' Like other ships, he sways from side to side, and his awkward motion is apt to make his rider feel very sick, till he gets accustomed to this way of travelling. Camels are wonderfully strong and enduring animals, and can stow up water within them for several days, besides having an extraordinary power of smelling any water or spring that is far beyond the reach of man's eyes. These qualities are naturally very valuable in the burning deserts which stretch unbroken for hundreds of miles, where everything looks alike, and the sun as he passes across the heavens is the traveller's only guide.
Partly from fear of warlike tribes, which wander through the deserts of Arabia and Nubia, aud partly from the help and protection which a large body can give, the one to the other, it is the custom for merchants and
1 From Burckhardt's Travels in Nubia.