Let’s go grab a camel (said a Tunisian man to me)

I have mentioned my experience with Tunisian camels before – the short version being, don’t bet on a camel in a camel race because it’s unlikely your camel will even run in the direction of the finishing line. Yes, that’s a lesson I learnt at the Sahara Festival in Douz in the south of the country. A lesson I will never forget!

What I had forgotten, however, was a funny incident which I rediscovered while flicking through an old travel journal (in front of 26 course participants in my travel writing course, no less. I made a frantic mental note to blog about it and fortunately have remembered to do so).

Still in Douz, and with the focus very much on camels for the time of the festival, I was chatting with a man who worked at the hostel I stayed in. As you may expect, he didn’t come across many Australians and was very keen to find out more about my home country. And in particular, about our camels.

We chatted about how it is indeed true that we have herds of wild camels just running wild in the northern half of the country. (What I’ve only just discovered, thanks to Wikipedia’s Australian feral camel entry, is that we are apparently the only country in the world who have wild camels wandering the desert. No wonder this guy was so fascinated.)

He checked with me about the “wild” bit: “So nobody owns them?”
I said, I guess not. I’d never given it much thought, of course. I’d seen camels up north and around Uluru but they weren’t really something I came across in my daily Australian life.
I’m pretty sure I would have stifled a giggle at this point, although my journal didn’t mention it. “I guess so,” I said. “We’ve got too many. Nobody would care if you took one.”
And the Tunisian man was in awe of my country for a reason I had never even contemplated. And that’s one of those things I love about travel: you meet people with such different perspectives that you start contemplating all kinds of strange stuff. However, I’ve decided I’m not about to dash out into the outback and grab a camel for our backyard, so don’t worry. I suspect a camel wouldn’t get along with my two cats.


  1. Hilarious – but also a great example of how you can spin a great story from something in the past, which resonates across continents, based on a single sentence… Awfully good!

    • Thanks so much Leyla! I love this story too and it came as a shock to me that I’d forgotten about it – thank goodness for my journals! (I just need to read them more often).

  2. I think these wild camels are considered a bit of a nuisance too.
    Great story Amanda.

  3. It’s really nice Amanda. Once I had a chance to ride a camel in UAE. I didn’t because of the bad smell it gave me! Does it really happen in everywhere? I really love to take some experience after going through this story.

  4. Camels are such beautiful creatures, unfortunately you’re never certain if they’re asleep or not, and talk about move slowly, they may as well be going backwards.

  5. Travel does provide wonderful opportunities for seeing other perspectives (even about your own country).

  6. This is exactly why I love travel too. The people, the cultures, different ways of life, different perspectives. Love the camel story!

  7. I had no idea there were wild camels in Australia!

    • I only had an inkling after a trip to Uluru and a ride there on a camel (which was followed, rather distastefully I thought, by a camel meat snack!). I learnt much more about it from Wikipedia 😉

  8. Love it! Think I might leave the camels alone, too.

  9. We went on a camel ride during our honeymoon in the Red Centre. In the middle of our tour a wild bull camel arrived and tried to convince our steed to join him – there were a few tense moments! The Hostel Owner would be more than welcome to him!

  10. What a cool connection to make with the man. I rode a camel in Morocco, and I worried about falling off for most of the trip.

  11. What a lovely story! It made me smile 🙂 I so remember the camels smell from Broome … and there I heard that there are over 400,000 wild camels in Australia (err, not sure, that could be 40,000 – I am a storyteller after all) anyway, it sounded an awful lot.

  12. Thanks Jo! Ah yes the smell is not grand. I think 400,000 wild ones sounds possible though? And makes for a better story 😉

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