It’s been four whirlwind months in Oz so far, with its ups and downs. Ups include working at the international language school of the University of Queensland, teaching such a mishmash of nationalities, and learning so much about other cultures every day its difficult to explain how different every day is. For example, yesterday I sat in class evaluating short presentations whilst eating imported dates from Tunisia and drinking Arabic coffee, listening to arguments over which is the best shopping district in Tokyo (the Japanese students have very strong opinions on this), what kind of kimchi is best for your health, if Iraq or Saudi Arabia’s soil is the most fertile for producing the best palm dates and whether Colombia is best known for its drugs or coffee. All, of course, from citizens from these respective countries. It really is a fantastic job, but it does come with a lot of pressure and expectation.
One interesting story I heard was from Mohammed, a Saudi student (and class clown), who we ran into on the train after class. He was telling us how he wasn’t really interested in studying English but was more preoccupied with setting up business contacts in Australia for export purposes, as the ever-present cooler bag of bush honey samples at his side which he has started exporting to Saudi Arabia proved. He claims the Qur’an states honey has healing properties and is thus very sought after in the Islamic Kingdom.
What really interested me was his next business venture, which sounded like a bit of a joke at first, but made sense after he explained it: he’s planning on exporting camels to Saudi Arabia! Double-take, sorry did you so TO Saudi Arabia?! Land of sand, oil, camels and well, not much else?! Yup, apparently camels go for around $15 000 there, whilst he can purchase Australian camels for about a thousand bucks apiece. A sound business equation if you ask me, and I don’t claim to be a business guru by any means, as my 15% for first semester Economics at university can attest.
I remember first reading about the million odd camels in the Outback in Bill Bryson’s classic travelogue “Down Under” (not to mention the havoc-causing wild rabbits and cats he so hilariously wrote about), and recently the Australian Government have made it known they plan on culling the ‘ships of the desert’ by means of sharpshooters in helicopters through their “Aerial Predator Control” programme.
They are seen as a pest by many outback farmers, trampling vegetation , eroding the soil and damaging water pipes in their search of refreshment, and the population is set to double every nie years according to some news sources. Of course, some animal rights groups are outraged at the inhumanity of it all (not to mention the $20 million odd set aside to put the plan into action), offering alternatives like birth control to render the gentle giants impotent.
Another alternative is looking into other uses for the camels. Supposedly there have been talks of “camel burgers”, as male Bactrian camels carry substantial amounts of meat, weighing up to 650 kilos, not even to mention the delicacy of the fatty hump. Also, on a recent BBC Newspod podcast, there was a story espousing the virtues of camel milk, long used in North Africa and the Middle-East, and now with Europe’s first camel-farm in the Netherlands following the age-old tradition.
There has been research in India into the milk’s curative properties like helping against diabetes and other chronic diseases. The only problem is the camels only give milk if they like you and are totally relaxed. Sounds a bit like those Kobe cows in Japan that get to chug down beer, listen to music and receive daily massages. What does it taste like? Well, according to one taste-tester; “I think it’s a bit weird, I don’t feel like a little camel, who I think the milk is for”.
But I digress, I think Mohammed has just used is keen business sense to carve himself a niche in a previously unheard of market and it might just make him a lot of money, especially if he decides to venture into the food and beverage industry with his camels.
I can just see it…tumbleweeds blowing across the red, arid land…tattooed desert train truckies with dust in their mouths lining up at “Mohammed’s Outback Desert Desserts Diner” just waiting for an ice-cold camel milk soft-serve or a double humpburger with feral fries. Sounds like our man Mohammed could probably sell ice to Eskimos. I should talk to him about that….