Yesterday M, the kids, and I went to the UAE Camel Festival in Madinat Zayed near Liwa, about two hours southwest of metropolitan Abu Dhabi. I absolutely loved the entire day, including the drive, because we saw what I've been longing to see more of: the desert. (More on the desert two posts down from this one.)
As we got further into the remote western region of Abu Dhabi, there were fewer and fewer signs in English. Once at the festival, I asked a police officer for information about the contest and he replied in French.
Above is the side road to the festival, wherein thousands of camels from the Arabian Gulf are competing for significant prizes of cash and cars, etc.
Everyone but us seemed to have a Land Cruiser and everyone but us seemed in need of getting somewhere in record time. Above is a fair display of the driving mentality on this road: if someone isn't going fast enough you go around him - a philosophy almost every driver seemed to be employing at the same time!
Good thing M was driving, as I tend to get excited when all the cars around me are about to plow into my car.
The above picture was typical of what we saw out our car windows before we parked: camels coming and going from the competition arena. If you click on the picture above you will see that despite the heat and the strong sun, the man leading these camels is smiling, his white teeth bright against his tanned skin.
Camel owners say each camel has his own look, his own face, like people. Most owners also seem to have great love for their camels, whose incredible hardiness and wide feet have taken many people across the desert before cars were available. I enjoyed watching the animals and their owners together.
Spread over the vast open land on either side of the makeshift road, as far as the eye could see, there were groups of camels and bedouin-style tents set up for their owners for this nine-day Camel Festival.
It was a feast for the eyes. Many camels were decked out in specially-made, sparkly bands around their humps and backs; some groups of camels wore their country's flag on their backs; many had thick hair on their humps but were otherwise shaved. Some were dark, like those above, and others were sand-colored.