Dubai - Emirati Bedouin elder shares desert life with camel trekkers

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Hilal Ahmed Abu Ibrahim and youngest participant, Hamdan Mohammad Hilal and Hamdan Mohammad Abdulla spend time by the campfire at the Liwa desert during the 500km camel trek.-Photo by Neeraj Murali

In the olden days, camels carried food, spices, gold and other trade items along the ancient trade routes.

After tying his grandson's ghutra (headscarf), 68-year-old Emirati Hilal Ahmed Abu Ibrahim sat beside Hamdan Mohammed Hilal, 5, by the campfire to share with him stories about Bedouin life.

They were joined by another Emirati boy, Abdullah Hamdan, 7, and a couple of young Emirati men and expats who were part of the annual Camel Trek, organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC).

Their convoy, which set off on December 4 for a two-week journey, just covered around 65km of the UAE desert before settling for the night at Bugrain, a desert area between Sheibekha and Al Razeen, in the southwestern region of Abu Dhabi.

The sky was clear and the weather was cool at low 20s on that Friday night and Abu Ibrahim began his story by telling how Bedouins, the early inhabitants of the Arabian desert, traversed the sands by camels.

"Camels are called the 'ship of the desert' because they are the only means of transport that can move people and goods from one place to another," said Abu Ibrahim.

In the olden days, camels carried food, spices, fruits, incense, silk, gold and other trade items along the ancient trade routes across the Arabian Peninsula. And the voyagers had no navigational instruments except for the stars.

"Life in the desert was hard but the Bedouins, known for their resourcefulness, have survived the harsh natural conditions. Bedouins shared food, and hospitality was at the forefront of their life. After dinner, they would sit around the campfire and, over some tea, talk about how the day passed by," added Abu Ibrahim, who started riding camels when he was seven.

A champion camel rider in his youth, Abu Ibrahim was the oldest in the convoy of nine Emiratis and nine expats, who came from Germany, France, Britain, China and Albania to immerse themselves in the local culture.

Uplifting journey

According to Abdullah Hamdan bin Dalmook, CEO of the HHC, "the annual camel trek (now in its sixth edition) has become very popular among Emiratis and expats, especially among those who love to have a unique desert experience and learn the old ways of the Bedouins. The journey has connected them with nature, in addition to developing ties of friendship and cooperation among the participants".

Anna Aiko, 40, a French-Japanese traveller, said the one thing she would cherish most at the end of the journey was the camaraderie they established during the trek.

German expat Linda Krockenberger, 28, said they experienced various ups and downs during the trek. The adrenaline was high at the beginning of the trip but there were also days when they felt too tired, especially when they reached camp after sunset.

"Our bodies were sore but the general mood was always uplifting because of the great experience. When I sent pictures of myself with the camel to my friends and family back home, they thought at first I was not serious. But I've proved them wrong and they appreciated my efforts in getting immersed in the Arab culture," Krockenberger shared.

The camel voyage will conclude on Wednesday, when the trekkers are expected to arrive at the Heritage Village in Global Village after a 14-day desert journey.

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Angel Tesorero

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