Just as horses played an important role in early American and European transportation, the camel has long served as a traditional mode of travel in desert regions like Africa and the Middle East. Despite the relatively wide availability of modern cars and trains, visitors to these regions often utilize camels to explore the history and tradition of the desert. During a camel trekking tour, participants ride camels, straddling the animal just as one would a horse. These camel trekking adventures may extend just a few hours, but can also last for weeks as visitors travel to different sites or cities.
To maximize safety in these often remote and dangerous desert areas, most visitors participate in group camel trekking tours led by a guide. Each visitor rides a species of riding camel, while a different type of packing camel may be brought along to carry luggage and rations. A large padded saddle is affixed to the camel for comfort and stability, while a harness can be used to give the rider some control over the animal.
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Camel trekking is particularly common in some of the world's most popular desert regions. Many visitors to Egypt, for example, ride camels to reach some of the more remote pyramids and ancient sites. Other outfits offer camel trekking tours of the Gobi or Sahara deserts, as well as tours through Jordan and other Middle Eastern nations. Riders may simply venture out for a few hours to experience what it's like to ride a camel, or stay with these animals as they travel over an extended period, and camp out at local facilities.
One of the appeals of camel trekking is that it allows participants to explore the allure of ancient Arabia. Many have watched movies or read books that glamorize the history of desert lands, with camel travel a major part of the lifestyle in these stories. Riding atop a camel also takes the rider back to nature, and allows him to experience the true magnificence and power of the desert. In some areas, camels may offer the only practical method of accessing certain sites, or may serve as a shortcut to modern roads.
Despite its allure, some visitors may hesitate to participate in camel trekking due to fear or apprehension about the size of these animals. Riding a camel in the desert also exposes the visitor to extremely hot temperatures and the scalding desert sun. In addition, the ride may be uncomfortable due to the natural profile of the camel's body. Camping or trekking in remote regions can also be dangerous, both due to desert bandits and the severe climate in these remote areas.