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Most visitors from the West come to Jordan never having laid eyes on a camel, yet almost all arrive full of all kinds of ideas about the creatures; myths about the simplicity of desert life, the nobility of the bedouin and the Lawrence-of- Arabia-style romance of desert culture all seem to be inextricably bound up in Western minds, with the camel. Jordanian Bedouin, of course, long since gave up using camels either as means of transport or as beasts of burden - Japanese pick-ups are faster, sturdier, longer- lived and less bad-tempered than your average dromedary. However, some tribes still keep at few camels (mostly for nostalgic reasons and the milk), and the Bedouin that live in or close to tourist areas such as Petra and Rum have small herds of them to rent out for walks and desert excursions.
If you're in any doubt about whether to take the plunge and have a camel ride, then rest assured that it's still a great experience. There's absolutely nothing to compare with the gentle, hypnotic swaying and soft shuffle of riding camel, back in the open desert Wadi Rum is the best place in Jordan to try it out, with short and long routes branching out from Rum village all over the southern desert, as far as Aqaba, Ma'an or Petra; these are hefty multi-day excursions, but then again anything less than a couple of hours' riding isn't really worth it.

As a beginners' tip, the key to not falling off a camel is to hang on to the pommel between your legs; they get up from sitting with a bronco-style triple jerk, and if you're not holding on as soon as your bottom hits the saddle, you're liable to end up in the dust. Once up and moving, you have a choice of riding your mount like a stirrup less horse, or copying the locals and cocking one leg around the pommel.


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