Watch Out, They Spit!

Our day trip of Tangier in Morocco started with a bus tour through the newer parts of the city. As a port city so close to Europe, it consists of various regions in which expats from that continent flock together. We drove past the British section, peering through the mist rolling in from the ocean at nondescript white houses that didn’t resemble anything like we imagined a Moroccan abode would look like.

Our first stop was on the outskirts of town where a group of camel handlers were stationed. For a nominal fee of €1 per person, I had my first experience of riding on this iconic desert animal. While the camel was sitting with its legs bent in an awkward-looking position, I scrambled onto its back and held onto the two straps, one in front and one at the back of the saddle. As it lumbered to its feet, I held on for dear life, having been warned by its handler not to fall off while the camel got up. With the handler leading the camel by a rope tied around its head, we walked in circles for a few minutes. I really enjoyed the experience and exchanged smiles with other tourists as our camels passed each other. Dismounting was a little tricky as well, the animal plopping to the ground in a rush of bending knees as it first flopped forwards and then backwards.

While we waited for others to take their turns, we had a chance to observe the handlers’ treatment of their animals. They used the ropes to hit the camels when they didn’t want to get up, not savagely, but without any patience and with a definite lack of affection – to them, these animals were a means to earn some easy money, nothing more. I think had I seen how they were treated before I got onto one I would perhaps have decided not to take part. It wasn’t exactly animal abuse, but it did make me feel a little uncomfortable.

It didn’t seem to bother any of the other tourists, however, so perhaps I was just a little oversensitive. The camels were so cute, it was hard to imagine anyone being anything but fond of them, but maybe working with them day in and day out can be frustrating. What are your thoughts on these kinds of activities and using animals as tourist attractions?

For more posts in the Spain 2010 series, click here.

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