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Mon 21 May 2012 11:00 BBC Radio 4 FM only

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 21 May 2012

Camels are the heart and soul of Arabic culture. Even in an age of four-wheel drive and oil-money opulence they're a powerful symbol of wealth. In 'Camel Country' the field biologist Tessa McGregor travels through the deserts of Oman with one of the last of the frankincense caravans.

For centuries camel trains have climbed from the coastal plain to the high plateau of Dhofar to collect the annual frankincense harvest. The trade has declined as the young Omanis shun the tough world of the desert for the comforts of urban life but even in the cities the camel is still venerated. Camels are raced, songs are composed in their honour, they're displayed in beauty contests and photos of favourite camels are swapped on mobile phones and Facebook.

In two generations the people of the Arab peninsula have gone from nomadic poverty when the camel was the difference between life and death to an age of air-conditioned luxury but even today, as Tessa discovers, the camel herders are regarded as princes of the desert.

Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Tessa McGregor meets the camels of Oman

    Tessa McGregor meets the camels of Oman

  • Camel herders in Dhofar

    Camel herders in Dhofar

  • All photos by Tessa McGregor

    All photos by Tessa McGregor

  • Tessa in Dhofar

    Tessa in Dhofar


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