Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Camels as Cultural Cradles

In the tradition of the Bedouin tribes that inhabited the deserts of the Middle East, the camel is being elevated as the representation of the values that thrived among the nomadic peoples of the sands of Arabia. The patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that gave such activities importance and significance; and the social relationships and practices which embedded such activity and structures, were disseminated through the backs of the "ship of the desert" - the camel.

This culture and its inculcation among the youth of Arab states, is at the core of the International Camel Beauty Pageant. This year, 10,000 camels will be participating in the richest and biggest event of its kind in honor of the underrated animal that connects to the Arabian past; and the preservation of values that would be the foundation which will carry them to the future. The Abu Dhabi event boasts of $9 million prizes plus 100 cars up for grabs. Shiny toes, curled eyelashes, and shapely humps are not the main criteria for judging, which is difficult enough as it is. A panel of experts will choose the best camel for each age group. The camel must have a pedigree, free from contagious diseases, and no serious defects. This event is part of the Mazayin Dhafra Festival.

The camel is a central figure in the Arab culture, and was once the measure of wealth along with horses and falcons. The Emirates rulers see the preservation of their national identity through the animal that was essential to their survival before the oil era. It is part of their roots as a race, and would want the youth and future generations to respect and honor that identity; together with the honor codes that were part of that culture.

These codes include the Ird for women and the Sharaf for men. A woman is born with her Ird intact. It is an emotional and conceptual rule (like honor and respect) where a violation can make her lose her Ird and never regain the same. Sharaf involves protection of the Ird of women in the family, protection of property, and maintenance of the tribe's honor. Diyafa (hospitality) is a virtue that is also provided to the enemy like shelter and food for some days. Poverty does not excuse one of this practice. Generosity is a related virtue that includes gift offerings which cannot be refused. The poor are looked after by the community and tithing is mandatory. Hamasa (courage/bravery) is the willingness to defend the tribe for the purpose of assahiya (tribal solidarity and balance). It is related to muruwa (manliness). Bravery entails the ability to withstand pain.

These honor codes have been passed on by the Bedouin tribes for centuries and have united the families for generations. It has kept their culture intact and their relationships closely bound. The oil era and the wealth that was created in its path have caused the tribes to settle in communities and cities, to facilitate the delivery of social services and to encourage professional development. Regardless of the number of luxury custom made vehicles they might own, their respect for the camel, their tradition and their culture remains of equal importance as any material acquisition they may ever make. Wisely, this is a legacy they would not want to forget.

Now, let's take a look at those gorgeous camels and see if the judges get to hug and kiss the winners.



Stacey @Real World Mom said...

Interesting information!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Stacey,

Culture and historical traditions help keep people grounded and gives them an identity that defines who they were and what they can become.

People have the same aspirations everywhere and the world is such a small place. But we are all members of the human race and are definitely all connected. We can use a little more understanding and acceptance of one another.

Unfortunately, politics, power, domination, and intolerance take center stage most of the time, moved by a few people in each of these societies that create conflict and enemies. If we were to know other nationalities and their hopes and dreams, we can hardly consider them enemies at all.
Hostility can be drummed up, dramatized to reach emotional heights that lead to extreme actions. And all societies have personalities within their population who are guilty of these. This is the curse of this tiny planet. It can't seem to unite in peace. :-) --Durano, done!

Kim said...

great post Durano !!
some very attractive camels too...

a wonderful follow up post to your King Arthur story...which gave me goosebumps.....

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

Thanks for the compliment, and for complimenting the camels too! :-)

Why did the follow up story on King Arthur give you goose bumps, have things turned ugly before? LOL!

I can't imagine you ever becoming a witch. The fairy perhaps, but the witch... Never! :-)--Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Fitness Diva said...

wow! I just learned a ton from this post! You are quite the teacher, Durano! Well done.

I now know that I had, and also no longer have, an Ird. Great! This is the fastest time on record of me ever losing anything! lol

Interesting insight on the traditions and values of the Arab culture.
Makes one understand a lot, including some of the sensational stories and headlines that emanate from the Arab world even today.
Also explains why the culture and their traditions are as strong as they still are.

And, how about those camels! The one smiling in the first pic should definitely get first prize! Big points for personality, cheekiness, and teeth to die for, that one! ;)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

What we normally see of other people are those that are well pronounced and media and somehow those that have been stereotyped by Hollywood films.

Since they seem so far away, we take it as a generalization what they are, even if what was shown was a tiny speck into their culture or the waywardness of a few.

What if only gangster movies were the basis for developing an image of Americans because that'e the only thing they know? Or Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives; or worse Paris and Nicole? That's not the entire picture, it's merely what is shown. We really have to learn about others to understand them, then acceptance will follow. :-) --Durano, done!