Camel Riding Popularity Inspires Special Camel Traffic Lights in the Middle of the Desert

During the month of May, camel riding is such a popular pastime at the Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Spring scenic spots in China’s Kumtag Desert that local authorities use camel traffic lights to avoid traffic jams.

One of the last things you would expect to find in the middle of a desert is a functional traffic light, but you can find several of them in the sand dunes of the Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Lake Nature Park, in northwestern China’s Gansu Province. During the annual holiday at the beginning of May, thousands of people flock to these natural tourist spots and engage in a variety of activities, the most popular of which is undoubtedly camel riding. In 2023, there were around 2,400 camels available for riding, as well as tens of thousands of tourists per day at the Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Spring scenic spots alone, which resulted in serious traffic congestion problems. Luckily, local authorities came up with an ingenious solution – camel traffic lights.

As bizarre as using traffic lights in the middle of a desert might seem, it does make some sense. In 2023, on the first day of May, Mingsha Mountain received over 10,000 visitors, and their number grew to 20,000 in the following days of the Spring holiday. Many of them walked along the ancient Silk Road, but a few thousand opted to take in the scenery on camelback, and this created traffic jams along the popular route.

By installing traffic lights that signaled when camels had to stop to allow pedestrians to cross, the problem was partially solved. When the green camel light is on, camels can pass; when the red camel light is on, camels stop to let pedestrians pass first.

Luckily, in Gansu Province’s Kumtag Desert, ‘camel jams’ will no longer be a problem thanks to these ingenious camel traffic lights. The problem is that they’ve now become somewhat of a tourist attraction in what is an already overcrowded tourist spot.


It is expected that more than 240 million Chinese people will travel nationwide during the May Day holiday this year, many of them flocking to popular scenic spots. Some of these get so crowded during this period that they have to issue public announcements urging tourists not to come because there simply isn’t any more room for them.