The main actors of the Caravan for Cancer and the Caravan of Hope were Lilianne’s four camels: Zenobia and Zahra, and Zubeida and Sheba. They form two mother and daughter pairs. Zenobia and Zahra are white camels of the Wadhah or Maghateer breed, originating in northern Saudi Arabia, although we purchased them in Syria. Syria's central desert region is considered an extension of the northern Saudi desert. Zenobia is about 28 years old and her daughter was born 10 years ago. Zubeida is 17 years old and her daughter Sheba now a mature 12 years. They are both dark brown camels of the Saudi Safrah breed, half angle, half devil!

Zenobia has been named after the famous queen of Palmyra living around 250 A.D. Our Zenobia used to work carrying loads up the mountain near Sweida in Syria. She was used to carry heavy loads on a metal saddle. She developed saddle sores on her back which made her no longer suitable for the job she was doing. She was subsequently used for breeding and when her daughter was born she was sold as a milking camel to a local sheikh in Palmyra. When her milk production proved to be less than expected she was offered to Lilianne for sale along with six other camels. While Lilianne had a difficult time choosing, looking at each of them in turn, Zenobia made the choice for her. She turned around and put her head in Lilianne’s arms, making the clear gesture of “choose me, I like you”.

Zubeida was named after the wife of Haroun al Rashid, a caliph of the Abbasid dynasty living in the 8th century. Zubeidah, herself was an engineer and is credited with constructing caravanserai along the main trade routes of that period. Like Zenobia, our Zubeida also had a medical problem. She had a chronic ear infection which made her very difficult to handle. She had been treated a number of times with “wassems”, burns near her ear made with a white-hot metal bar. Lilianne found her with her daughter which had been born just 15 minutes earlier. She had been brought to the butcher who would have slaughtered her after some 6 months when her calf was weaned from the mother and sent back to the desert to grow up. However, luckily for her, Lilianne fell in love with her gracious looks and rescued her from a certain death. Lilianne managed to heal both Zenobia's saddle sores, which required an operation by a vet, and Zubeida's chronic ear infection, using anti-biotic creams and homeopathy when the infection flared up again at irregular intervals.

Sheba, Zubeidah's daughter, was named after the Queen of Sheba, a monarch living in the 10th century BC. She is a very intelligent animal and will try to figure out how things work, carefully observing how we, say, open and close doors and gates and then copy us exactly. We call her "al Muhandessah", the engineer. Sheba was just born when we bought her mother and we raised her from just after her birth. She became pregnant after visiting the bull farm in 2006 and delivered a daughter, Ghazal. The father was a famous racing camel of the late Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan: Soghran Breur. Sheba is a natural-born leader in the caravan and will be one of the two lead camels observing the terrain ahead and taking the best route around potential barriers.

Zahra, the daughter of Zenobia, is pure white. Her name means "white flower" in Arabic. She is very curious and will always be the first to come to the fence of their enclosure when a stranger visits. Just like Sheba, Zahra came to us as a new-born calf together with her mother. She became pregnant in 2007 after a visit to the stud farm and delivered our only bull camel, Shaheen, a year later.



Ghazal, born to Sheba in 2007, was the first of our third generation of camels. She is just as inquisitive as her mother and will copy everything her mother does, including the bad traits her mother copied from us! As her father was a famous racing camel, she was named Ghazal or gazelle in English. We never put her to the test as we preferred to keep her with us rather than send her to a racing camel trainer. It is a tough life to become a champion! Although Ghazal is now a nearly four years old and reaching maturity, she still drinks from her mother and teases her grandmother Zubeida.


Shaheen, son of Zahra and grandson of Zenobia, was born in 2008. He is the only surviving male calf we have. Zahra gave birth to a bull calf in 2006, but he died only two weeks after birth. Shaheen, is named after his father, also a famous racing champion of the late Sheikh Zayed. His father's genes are strong as Shaheen has the good looks and thetan coloured hair of his father rather than the snow-white of his mother. At nearly three years old, Shaheen is in his puberty. He can become so excited by the presence of our seven ladies that he has to be kept in a separate enclosure. He does not have to feel lonely as our three camel girls, Ghazal, Najmah and Suleimah are always next to him on the other side of the barrier!

Najmah is our benjamin; born in 2009 to Zubeida. She is thus the little sister of Sheba and auntie of Ghazal! She still loves to snuggle up to Zubeida and often drinks from her mother. Her father was Jabaar, possibly the most famous of Sheikh Zayed's stud camels. She is great friends with Suleimah, who is about her age. But as Suleimah is destined to become a "giant" Majaheem camel, Najmah's friend already towers above her and can reach delicious banana leaves by stretching over the enclosure's fence, while Najmah can only watch and be jealous!

We first 'discovered' the majestic Majaheem breed when visiting the camel beauty contest ("mazeinah") in Medinat Zayed. These regal camels can rise up to 3m (10ft) at the shoulder with the crown of their head easily another meter higher. Their hair is silky-soft and black as coal. They are so strong that it is useless to try to guide them with a head dress and guide rope. A Majaheem will deign to follow you if She so desires. As they form a very close bond with their human masters, thankfully that is nearly always the case! We were very fortunate to be able to obtain Suleimah, daughter of a beauty champion mother, also called Suleimah. When she arrived in our herd, Suleimah was rather lonely having just been separated from her mother while all our calves were still being nursed by their respective mothers. It is a testimony to Sheba's character that she 'adopted' Suleimah as her own, cuddling and protecting her against the others. However, the line is drawn as far as feeding her. Although Suleimah often tries to "steal" a mouthful of milk from Sheba, that is still reserved for her own daughter Ghazal, even though she can nearly conceive of a calf herself!

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