In recent days, the use of the title “Battle of the Camels” has become quite a common occurrence in mainstream media. It brought me to reminisce the link between the camels and the religious strife in that battle in Islamic history. It took place in the era of Uthman ibn Affan, the third Rashidun Caliph after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This battle was seen as the first Islamic civil war, also called the First Conflict between Sunnites and Shiites – one that prevails to this day.
The camel is considered the symbol of tourism in the Arab world, but today this symbol has become a controversial one of the Arab Spring. When I was watching the news channel one day, I was shocked to see revolutionaries riding raging camels and looking like barbarians as they brandished primitive weapons and shed blood.
I recalled the camels seen in touristic places – especially in Egypt – and how they were used to entertain the tourists and add some fun to the Arab ambience. It was then strange and ironic how camels were now being ridden in another context-by barbarians in Tahrir Square that violently forced the protestors to leave the area. One day during the days when the Egyptian revolution was being referred to as the “Battle of the Camels”, I was on my way to Makkah where I saw camels standing next to spring flowers in Ar-Rahmah Mountain at the edge of Mount Arafat (where pilgrims performing Hajj must spend an afternoon in the state of Ihram). I remembered when the Islamic conquests began with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), how he completely turned around people’s perception of the Islamic religion, and how these conquests were symbolized in the divine books with the camels.
When I saw these camels, I thought of the events taking place today in the political and social Arab landscape – what is called the Arab Spring and I was compelled to capture the symbolism through photography. Flowers symbolized the beginning of this Arab revolution that started in 2011. The call for democracy means the demand for freedom of thought as an essential ingredient to scientific and creative research, which is impossible to attain if there is no political understanding of its importance.
“We dreamed before of changing the world and now the world is changing us.”