Expo 2020 Dubai: Camel trekkers retrace 640km journey through the desert over 13 days

Proudly wearing traditional Bedouin outfits, the desert adventurers were beaming with excitement as their journey ended

By SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Wed 22 Dec 2021, 3:29 PM

Last updated: Wed 22 Dec 2021, 5:11 PM

After 13 days of riding the 'ships of the desert', a group of camel trekkers finally arrived to a warm welcome at Expo 2020 Dubai.

"Ahlan... Ahlan... Welcome", the crowd chanted as the group strode through the gate.

Though exhausted after their 640km journey, the group was in high spirits. One rider exclaimed, "We did it!"

Proudly dressed in traditional Bedouin outfits, the desert adventurers were beaming with excitement as their journey ended.

Organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre, the eighth edition of the camel trek had 29 participants from 21 nations, including Spain, South Korea, Germany, UK, USA, South Africa and France.

Among the 29 participants were a German mother and a daughter duo. The desert trek comes with a lot of responsibility, said Paulin Piesker. "The moment you start the trek, the camel is my responsibility. I had my daughter Emilia and her camel too."

The trekkers had to take care of their camels - feed them dates and provide them water periodically.

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Paulin highlighted that the trek's difficulty depends on the bond with the camel.

“The moment you build that bond with the camel, the trek becomes easy. And it took me 4 days.”

Thirteen-year-old Emilia was quite excited when she heard her mother was selected to trek on a camel deep in the desert. Without considering her age and the difficulty level, she took up the challenge and joined her mother.

The camel trek was initially an opportunity for Emiratis to retrace their roots, but later on, it became popular among expats who wished to experience the true Bedouin life.

“I read about the Bedouin culture in books, but now I have experienced it,” said Emilia.

"In the open desert, there isn’t a place to rest. And whenever we felt tired, the camels provided us with the shade to relax," said Paulin.

The riders embarked on their challenging journey in the Liwa Desert of Abu Dhabi on December 9, and traced their path towards the Saudi Arabia border.

They moved towards Al Ain and then reached their destination, Expo 2020 Dubai, on December 21.

Another participant was Howard Leedham MBE, a former Royal Navy pilot and UK Special Forces Officer. He had been living the life of adventure and surprises every day, but he was quite taken aback by the difficulty the desert trek offered.

"This is a one-of-a-kind experience for everyone. It wasn't easy. The steep dunes and the extreme bruises made it very difficult for us."

Listen to Howard explain the daily routine:

The group covered about 50kms a day, and the distance they covered depended on the terrain. “It was only once or twice we finished before the sunset. We generally rode into the darkness,” he said.

Geul Bang, a South Korean expat living in the UAE since 2018, always wanted to experience the local adventure. Being a horse rider herself, she learned about the trek from her friend and registered to join the group.

“The challenge started soon after my selection,” said Bang.

“We had to travel every day to the desert camp for training, which was quite far from my residence,” said Bang.

The training started in August and ended in November.

“The trek was a challenge to our physical and mental capacity. We had to overcome the steep dunes, change the sleep cycle, and battle tiredness throughout the day. It has made me stronger now.”


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