King of the Cameleers: The rebellious patriotism of Abdul Wade

The Australian-dominated Imperial Camel Corps was a strange legacy of the Afghan cameleers who were brought to Australia in the 1870s, who opened up the Outback with the aid of a sturdy flock that could cope with the tough conditions.

The camels flourished, but relations between the Afghans and the local community were tense, escalating to widespread discrimination and violent attacks. Out of the melee emerged Abdul Wade, a successful Afghan camel merchant who wanted to give Australia’s military a gift of 500 camels for service in Egypt in WWI.

It was an extraordinary offer that came from deep patriotism, but feeling against Afghans was high.