Kingdom of Saudi Arabia designates 2024 as the 'Year of Camels' 

As the national animal of Saudi Arabia, camels underpin the Kingdom’s way of life
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

For time immemorial, the camel has held a deep-rooted presence and unique role in the lives of Saudis and in shaping the Kingdom's cultural heritage. As the national animal of Saudi Arabia and a traditional source of livelihood, the camel underpins a vast cultural heritage that has been expressed through art, crafts, literature and the Kingdom’s way of life.

Throughout 2024, a series of events, exhibitions, educational programs and activities organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture will highlight camel-inspired activities in a multitude of sectors, such as arts, fashion, quality of life, food production, culinary traditions and sustainability practices.

The Kingdom's designation of the Year of the Camel coincides with the United Nations' designation of 2024 as the International Year of Camelids. The combined recognitions underline the significant heritage and strength of the bond between humans and camelids. Across cultures, the camel has been part and parcel of people's daily lives worldwide. The global focus on celebrating camelids' place in society across geographies also represents an opportunity to highlight their importance for sustainability. As the planet tackles the challenges of climate change, food security and fragile biodiversity, the camel, capable of travelling up to 150 km in the desert without water, is an enduring emblem of resilience.

As a symbol of patience, perseverance and adaptation, the camel has been a faithful companion to humans as they have acclimatized to various environmental landscapes. Throughout history, camels have forged new trails, which earned them the title of the ships of the desert. By bridging distances across arid lands, camels connected people from different cultures.

The traditions and heritage formed from these ancient human interactions with the camel run very deep. Life-size camel carvings have been found on the desert rocks of Al-Jawf, in the Kingdom’s northern region, dating back 2,000 years. Inscribed on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the special oral tradition called “Alheda’a” used by camel herders to communicate with these emblematic desert animals and call their flocks, represents the strong bond between animal and herder. Additionally, the traditions of camel racing and beauty pageants instil pride in camel owners and excite the imagination.

The new cultural year offers a unique opportunity to celebrate the cultural significance of camels in Saudi society across generations. Having traversed time as a bedrock of national identity, the camel represents a vital link between Saudi heritage, values and modern aspirations.

Blending tradition and modernity, the Year of the Camel events will support and feature the participation of local artists, writers and artisans actively contributing to the preservation and continuity of camel-themed ancestral traditions. This priceless heritage is preserved for future generations by safeguarding and furthering these cultural practices. It will also offer multiple avenues to shine a light on Saudis' long history and companionship with the camel and serve as a platform for cultural collaboration and dialogue.

Cultural preservation is foundational in transmitting the ancient legacy and heritage inspired by the Saudis' unbreakable bond with the camel. The designation of cultural years provides a critical platform to share the greatness and beauty of Saudi Arabia's culture with local and global audiences. They are a chance to celebrate and shine a spotlight on countless valuable tangible and intangible cultural elements through a series of events and initiatives.

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