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People and Camels

Millions of people who live in Africa and Asia depend on camels to supply most of their needs. In lands at the edge of the deserts, camels pull ploughs, turn water wheels to irrigate fields, and carry grain to market places. Deep in the deserts, camels are almost the only source of transportation, food, clothing, and shelter. In turn, camels need people to fetch water for them from wells if they are to survive the hot summers.

Camels work hard for people, but their behaviour is unpredictable. Bactrian camels may spit at people, and all camels can kick. Camels may groan and bawl when they are loaded and have to rise to their feet. But they routinely carry loads of up to 150 kilograms for eight hours. They can carry more but do so unwillingly. Usually, camels work only six months of the year. If too much is demanded of them, they will die from over exertion.

Camels are an important source of food in the desert. People eat the meat of young camels, though it can be very tough. They melt fat from the animal's hump and use it as butter. People drink camel's milk and also make cheese from it.

The camel also supplies wool and leather for clothing and shelter. Camel owners weave the animal's soft, woolly fur into fine cloth and warm blankets. The long fur of the Bactrian camel is especially good for weaving into cloth. Arabs use the cloth for much of their clothing, and they also make tents from it. Camel's hair cloth is sold in many parts of the world for making blankets, coats, and suits.

The strong, tough skin of the camel provides leather for shoes, bags, and saddles. Dried camel bones can be carved like ivory for jewellery or utensils. Camel droppings are dried and used for fuel.

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