Where Camels Take to the Sea

Posted by Ed 8 mths ago
In Gujarat, India, a special breed of camel is not constrained by land—but cannot escape the many forces of change.

From the deck of a wooden fishing boat adorned with saffron, orange, and green, I squint at the point where heat waves merge with the tidal channel and blur the horizon like a greasy handprint on glass. Through the glare, four strange, dark shapes break the water’s surface—two heads, two humps.


In my mental archives, the camel has long been housed in a box stacked neatly on a shelf and left unexamined. The camel is a desert animal. The end. Its ability to stroll across a blazing arid landscape with a teetering load strapped to its back and not a single drop of water crossing its frothy lips for days is so legendary that the camel is widely known as the ship of the desert.

But here, along the coastal fringes of Gujarat, India, the ships of the desert actually take to the sea.

The first two camels glide across the channel, departing a low-slung island half a kilometer from our bow, and slowly rise at the mainland shore.

 On knobby knees, they proceed across a broad, salt-encrusted plain. A dozen more follow. My translator, perched on a heap of fishing nets on the boat’s deck, confers with a stranger beside him. “Madame,” he then shouts over his shoulder, “there are 100 coming!”

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