Photographed in the Wadi el Gamal – the Camel Wadi – in the Eastern Desert of Egypt.
The dromedary (/ˈdrɒmədɛri/ or /-ədri/), also called the Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius), is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back such as this one in Wadi el Gamal.
Dromedary camels’ diet includes foliage and desert vegetation, like thorny plants which their extremely tough mouths allow them to eat. These camels are active in the day, and rest together in groups. Led by a dominant male, each herd consists of about 20 individuals. Some males form bachelor groups. Dromedaries show no signs of territoriality, as herds often merge during calamities. Predators in the wild include wolves and lions; and tigers in the past. Dromedaries use a wide set of vocalizations to communicate with each other. They have various adaptations to help them exist in their desert habitat. Dromedaries have bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes to protect their eyes, and can close their nostrils to face sandstorms. Their ears are also lined with protective hair. When water-deprived, they can fluctuate their body temperature by 6 °C, changing from a morning minimum of 34° to a maximum of 40° or so in the afternoon. This reduces heat flow from the environment to the body and thereby water loss through perspiration is minimised. They have specialized kidneys, which make them able to tolerate water loss of more than 30% of their body mass; a loss of 15% would prove fatal in most other animals. Mating usually occurs in winter, often overlapping the rainy season. One calf is born after the gestational period of 15 months, and is nurtured for about two years.
The dromedary camel’s origin is unclear, but it was probably domesticated in Somalia or Arabian Peninsula about 4000 years ago, with a general agreement among experts about the domestication of the one-humped camel. The domesticated form occurs widely in Horn of Africa, North Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East including Wadi al Gamal in Egypt. Today, almost 13 million dromedaries are domesticated. They are beneficial as beasts of burden, and their docility and toughness compared to cattle are additional advantages. Their hair is a highly regarded source material for woven goods and their dung is used as fertiliser and fuel.