Living the Bedouin life

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Dubai - Every year, the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC) organises a grand camel trek that allows residents to experience life as a nomadic Bedouin.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Thu 10 Dec 2020, 10:50 PM

This year’s 10-day heritage camel trek wasn’t the first for French expat Anna Aiko — but it was different because, this time, she brought her own camel.

“I have always been drawn to the Arabian desert and so I got attached with camels, especially when last year’s trek introduced me to that authentic Bedouin environment. By bringing my own camel, I got to have my own travel companion in exploring the desert.”

Every year, the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC) organises a grand camel trek that allows residents to experience life as a nomadic Bedouin and explore the desert on camel’s back. The 2020 trip kicked off from Liwa’s Empty Quarter in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi and covered 550km to the Global Village in Dubai’s Al Marmoom area. It ran from November 29 to December 8.

The group of 11 adventurous residents — eight women and three men — all agree on what the best part of the trip had been: On the last day of their journey, they got to meet His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

They were on their way to their final stop when Sheikh Mohammed’s vehicle stopped next to the caravan. He rolled down his window, and congratulated the participants on the success of their trip.

“It was a surreal experience to be welcomed by the Ruler of Dubai. This journey for me was a sort of self discovery, where I discovered a new appreciation for nature, animals, people and our sense of self,” said Mariaan Valero, a 41-year-old expat from South Africa.

Hospitality touched our hearts

Russian national Nonna Akopian, 40, said they were amazed at the hospitality that Sheikh Mohammed had shown them.“It was amazing to meet the ruler face to face and we were more amazed at his humility. It was a befitting end to our journey,” Akopian said.

Recalling the experience, Valero said: Our days usually started at dawn, when we would roll up our sleeping bags and tents, dress in traditional jalabiya and sheilah, and get our camels ready for the trek. We were trained to take care of our own camels and were trotting on our own as part of the caravan.”

Every day, after an Emirati breakfast, the caravan would cover 50km each day that roughly took between six to eight hours.

German expat Martin Kaiser, 58, who came to Dubai just last year, was impressed with the well-stocked caravan.

“We had one big open community Bedouin tent with floor mattresses, four big tents for us as changing rooms. There was a food truck with live chickens, pigeons, sheep and goats, plus a kitchen tent with chefs preparing fresh food for us every day.”

It was an unforgettable experience, he said. “This was my first real contact with the local people here and I was touched by the warmth, brotherhood, generosity and hospitality of Emiratis.”

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