Embracing the magnificent desert - through a 3-and-half year-old's eyes
Its not that I haven't been out in the desert in the 25 years I've been here but mostly its been with my friends and family. We've taken our own picnics etc and every time I have enjoyed it. I think getting out of the city is magical - its serene and beautiful and so rejuvenating. This weekend, I took my grandson and joined a group of people, courtesy of Arva Ahmed, to go out to Ursula's camel farm just off the Al Qudra road. It was little Yojit (he's 3 and half) first close encounter with a camel and (truth be told) mine too (if you don't count zoos).
We did get spectacularly lost finding our way there but, thanks to modern technology - read Google and Whatsapp - we finally got to the farm but not before there was some excitement. When we were told that we would have a pick-up pick us up (from where we were) and take us to the farm, Yojit got really excited. Since not all of us (read - me) had four wheel drives, we stopped short of the camp and piled on to the pick up (some walked) so Yojit got his wish. We got to the farm just before sunset and were greeted with fresh legeimat covered in date syrup made by Ursula's bedouin helpers and Arabic tea. Ursula introduced us to her camels and their personalities. I had one eye on Yojit but he was fascinated with everything around him. He could not get enough of the sweets, tea and then he discovered that the sand could run through his fingers and, in his words, "it can fly away". Did not bode well for anyone around him because he kept picking up fistfuls of sand and throwing it in the air.
As the sun started to make its journey to the horizon some of us brave souls had a go at riding a camel. Me not being one of them. Yojit attached himself to Arva because she was answering all his questions. So they went on the camel together.
It was a very relaxing evening while we watched Ursula and her bedouin friends extend their hospitality
with more plates of legeimat and tea while others started the wood fire for dinner. While we waited and watched all the preparations and soaked in the beauty and peace of being in the middle of the desert, the kids (there were two more) spent all that time running up and down the dunes (under watchful eyes of course). Dinner was some fresh chicken stew with loads of vegetables and cooked with bezar (Emirati spice mix that has all familiar Indian spices but freshly roasted and ground); camel meat ground up into meat balls with spices and lemon; a vegetable stew and some salad and yoghurt. Served with freshly made roti that was rolled out and baked on a drum. We finished the evening with stories from Ursula accompanied by fruits and gahwa (Arabic coffee) that was made fresh by the tent: from roasting the beans to heating the water and adding the ginger and cardamom flavours.
Ursula has embraced the desert and the bedouin people and made this world her own. Her passion is contagious and her hospitality warm and welcoming. Whether you have been on a safari or not, this is a back to basics (in more ways than one) experience that gave me a sense of contentment that is so hard to describe. But I try.
For more photographs from the trip, here they are on my Facebook.