Camels, horses leave Seaview with memories, footprints behind

Published May 23, 2022
After the ban imposed by the Cantonment Board Clifton on riding animals on Seaview, the camels and horses are forced to leave the beach.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
After the ban imposed by the Cantonment Board Clifton on riding animals on Seaview, the camels and horses are forced to leave the beach.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: They are not that prominent or visible from the main road but if you make a turn towards the right from the urban forest entrance along the Clifton beach, you may be able to spot several camels on the horizon. Heading in that direction on foot you reach an open area with a few small thatched shades scattered here and there and plenty of camels and a few horses with a foot tied to iron pegs with long ropes.

Some of the camels munch on the thorny bushes growing in the sandy soil while some quench their thirst from the recycled yellow plastic whitewash paint buckets or the recycled blue chemical containers that are used for holding clean water for them. Being not of much use these days, they while away their time eating and drinking under the open sky with their poor owners keeping watch over them from their little airy makeshift sheds. There are no camel or horseback rides allowed on the Seaview beach these days, which has put a big dent in their meagre earnings.

Samar Gul is glad to see his five-year-old camel Shahrukh Khan munch on the dried bushes. “At least it is free. Otherwise, I am spending Rs4,000 a week on one camel’s food and Rs500 a week for his water. Actually, all of us camel owners pool in the money to get a 5,000 gallon sweet water tanker, which costs us Rs8,000 to Rs10,000,” Gul told Dawn.

“With working on the beach out of the question on the orders of the Cantonment Board Clifton [CBC], I take my camels out towards the city side to offer rides. But it is not the same as offering rides at the beach. A kind of tradition, camel rides have always been a significant part of any beach picnic. In the 1980s, they were also joined by horses but all of that has come to a stop after the authorities, who give us contracts to work on the beach, watched Dale Philip’s YouTube video about some boys taking the travelling YouTuber for a ride,” said Gul. “We are all being punished for the mistake of two or three devious boys,” he added.

CBC has imposed ban on riding animals on Seaview causing great financial trouble for poor owners

“The rides are allowed on the Clifton beach but there are few picnickers there. And we have so many camels, almost a 100 in number. The Clifton beach becomes too small for us. The picnickers, too, seem to like Seaview more as the beach is bigger and it offers plentiful parking. The Seaview beach extends to Do Darya. But we are not allowed to go beyond Dolmen Mall,” he said.

Mohammed Abid, another camel owner, said that with no work they had resorted to take loans to be able to feed their animals and families. “We are drowning in debt now. We owe people Rs40,000 or more and with no work we can only pay all our debt by selling our camels as sacrificial animals for Eidul Azha. After all, camel prices start at one to one-and-a-half lacs,” he said.

Mohammed Zafar, who used to offer horseback rides on his beautiful and well-groomed white horses Raju and Babloo, also said that he had had to resort to make his horses skip one meal in these difficult times.

“I spend Rs600 a day on each horse’s food and upkeep. They are like my children, needing good nutrition and care but I would not be able to care for them for long because with very little earnings now I am getting poorer by the day,” he said.

“Those three horse owners who fooled the foreigner and overcharged him have ruined our livelihoods by making all of us look bad. All of us got punished for the wrongdoing of those three,” he sighed.

“We already charge so little. Only Rs100 to Rs150 for a little round. The children take rides, their families click pictures, creating happy memories. Tell me, what’s a beach without camel or horseback rides? But all that is over now. Now, for most of the time I keep my horses at my little shed/stable behind the Ziauddin Hospital in Clifton. I only brought them out here for some much-needed exercise and fresh air today,” he added.

When Dawn reached out to the CBC over the matter, a spokesperson there informed that the overcharging of a foreigner by horse owners was not the main cause for banning camels and horses from the Seaview beach, although it was one of the reasons.

“Our major reason to keep the horses and camels off the beach is that the CBC is developing a stretch of parks at the beachfront, which the animal owners have a problem with. Then there was also that incident with the visiting foreigner that has also added to our decision. But they are free to work at any other beach or any other place that they may like. We can only keep them off Seaview, which comes under our jurisdiction,” said the spokesperson.

When reminded that there are plenty of parks in Clifton that remain quite empty and are not as popular as the beach, sand and sea. Also, camel rides and horseback rides add to the beach’s charm and draw more people there. To this the spokesperson said that at the moment they were exercising zero tolerance for these people and their animals but they would see if they needed to be brought back once the development work at Seaview had been completed.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022

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