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An extract from Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291
by Ian Heath

96.      CAMEL

Camels were the main means of baggage transport in the Middle East and accompanied most armies - Moslem, Mongol or Frankish - in large numbers; Beha ed-Din records the Franks capturing as many as 3,000 camels from one of Saladin's supply caravans in 1192 (the Itinerarium claims the even higher figure of 4,700) in addition to mules and asses, also used in large numbers, and this was only one of 3 similar convoys. In addition to carrying baggage the camels often doubled as infantry mounts on the march, but they do not seem to have been ridden in battle except by some Arabised Negro tribes of the Sudan, such as the Bega. Mamluks usually had at least one camel each, more often 2, while non-mamluks of the al-Halqa received 3 per 2 men.

Moslem caravans generally had their own escorts, comprised of cavalry, in addition to which the drivers were usually armed, Fulcher of Chartres describing how the drivers of the Fatimid supply column at Ramla in 1102 'carried staves and missiles in their hands for fighting.' Of the 3 caravans reported in 1192, two were escorted by Bedouins; in all the 3 caravans seem to have had a combined escort strength of 2,000 cavalry (including 500 elite mamluks) plus 'numerous footmen', probably the camel drivers.

See Camels in the Maqamat of al-Hariri

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