Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cigars in History Part I

So in my non cigar life, I am reading a book I got for Christmas called Afghanistan. Besides cigars, I find myself incredibly fascinated with events, the people, and the country of Afghanistan. This isn't the first, nor the last book I have read on Afghanistan, but I found something in this book that connects my love for cigars with my interest in Afghanistan. Many of you may not have known this, but the British were in Afghanistan long before American ground troops were in Operation Enduring Freedom. In December of 1838 The British Army, under the command of Sir John Keane, marched from the Punjab region to the Bolan Pass, which connects Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. From the pass they marched onto Kandahar, and from there it was all downhill, and there is a double meaning in that. The impressive thing of the army is that it consisted of roughly 21,000 soldiers, 38,000 Indian servants, 30,000 camels, and a pack of foxhounds. Out of those 30,000 camels, for one regiment they set aside two camels who were designated simply to carry their cigars! It is not known if this was the case for all regiments, but if it is, I should have joined the British Army.

Bactrian Camel
 You are probably wondering how much can a camel carry, and how much do cigars weigh? There are two main types of camels in that region, and both can carry different weights. The two main types of camels are Bactrian and Dromedary. Bactrian camels get their name from the ancient Kingdom of Bactria, which encompassed areas of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan  at its height. These are the largest of camels and have two humps. Since their domestication these camels have become critically endangered, and are no longer in the region, but at the time were. The second type of camel is the Dromedary camel, these camels have one hump, unlike the Bactrian and were domesticated in southern Arabia, these are the most common of camels. The Dromedary camel is taller and faster then the Bactrian, but the Bactrian is stockier and hardier. The Dromedary camel can carry up to 900 lb. while the Bactrian can carry up to 1,400 lb. In my research, I have found differences in optimum carrying weight for the camels, but the average is around 450 lb for the Dromedary and the Bactrian is around 900 lb. Since the Dromedary camel is the more common of the two, I am going to go with the fact that the British probably used them, since they had 30,000 of them.

Dromedary Camel
A cigar box weight fluctuates depending on the cigar, and the weight of the box. Cigars have become larger in sizes throughout the years, and are not as a small as they once were. Now cedar boxes were not introduced till 1844, so we can rule out those boxes in weight, and can use a typical cedar line paper box. I decided to go with the Montecristo #4 (Cuban) as the cigar of choice. At the time it would have been an appropriate size and it does not come in a cedar box.  The weight of the box with the cigars in it it, is 8/10 of a pound. So if they can carry 450 lb of weight, and the box weighs .8 lb, they can carry 562.5 boxes of cigars. Since there were two camels, I will say 1,125 boxes of cigars. (I rounded up in one and down in the other) That is 28,125 cigars. Oh, and in case you are wondering the Afghans slaughtered the British and they retreated in 1842. However, the one thing the Afghans loved that the British brought were ice skates, they had never seen them before.  
Montecristo #4


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