Shabbir Ahmad, camel driver

February 25, 2024

A weekly series of street professions

Shabbir Ahmad, camel driver


habbir Ahmad, a 17-year-old Seraiki-speaking teenager born in Ahmadpur Sharqia in Bahawalpur district, has spent the majority of his life in Neelum Colony, a shanty town in Karachi. Despite his young age, Ahmad has been employed as a camel driver at Sea View Beach for four years, following in the footsteps of his father, who is also engaged in the same profession.

Currently a student in the tenth class, Ahmad attends P&T Colony Government School for Boys. After completing the afternoon shift, concluding at 5pm, he promptly heads to the beach. His journey involves collecting his camel, named Bubloo, from a dera near Bilawal House in Clifton. The bond between Ahmad and Bubloo is notable, a connection shared among all camel drivers who choose their camels based on mutual understanding, care and daily interaction.

Shabbir Ahmad, camel driver

Ahmad sheds light on the dietary habits of his camel, revealing, “We get guwatri from Sindh to feed Bubloo. He consumes four large sacks of the dana per week. I bear 50 per cent of its cost, while the remaining is covered by the camel’s owner, who also has five other camels. My father also rents a camel from the same owner.”

Similar to the vibrant decorations adorning Pakistani trucks and buses, Bubloo, along with other camels at the Sea View Beach, is elaborately adorned. Colourful tassels made of yarn, large beads, layers of fabric covers and borders with filigree, featuring collaged patchwork patterns, contribute to the visually striking appearance of these camels.

Within Ahmad’s family of seven siblings, two brothers operate beach buggies, a ten-year-old attends school, and all four sisters are married. The eldest sister resides with her husband and children at their father’s house. Ahmad’s mother lives in their village in Ahmadpur Sharqia. For Ahmad and his brothers, the evening meal takes place at an eatery near their home, with expenses ranging between Rs 300.00 to Rs 500.00.

Ahmad’s daily earnings, ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500, see half of the amount handed over to the camel’s owner. Typically, Ahmad returns home at 1am, considering the consistent bustling activity at the beach during the evenings. Friday, Saturday and Sunday stand out as the busiest days, drawing crowds of men, women and children from all corners of the city to the beach, seeking respite or enjoying the sea.

Discussing the impact of socio-political and geographical climates on his livelihood, Ahmad notes, “The summer months are optimal for this business, but any untoward incident in the city affects the numbers. Winters, due to the cold, see people avoiding late-night outings.” Ahmad provides insights into the delicate interplay between the socio-political landscape and the geographical climate of the city, shaping the ebb and flow of his profession.

The writer is an author, illustrator and educator. She may be contacted at

Shabbir Ahmad, camel driver