For days now, camel caravans have been traveling from as far as Riyadh, Dhofar and Al Jahra to make it to the 11th Al Dhafra Festival about to start on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi emirate’s Madinat Zayed. This is the largest Bedouin gathering on the planet! On the edge of the mighty Empty Quarters, camel caravans are setting up tents and camel pens for one of the most impressive annual celebration of desert living. This year, Al Dhafra Festival is taking place from 14th till 28th December, and it’s been planned to be a memorable one!
The most expensive camel ever sold in the UAE was AED 10,000,000! It was bought in 2008, at Al Dhafra camel beauty festival in Abu Dhabi emirate, by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. During the event, the Crown Prince bought camels worth AED 16.5 million ($4.49 million), including a female camel for AED 10 million ($2.72 million). At Al Dhafra Festival 2017, this 14th – 28th December, some 1,500 camel owners and 20,000 camels are expected to participate.
The name Dirham derives from the Greek word Drachmae, literally meaning “handful”, from Latin. Due to centuries of old trade and usage of the currency, dirham survived through the Ottoman Empire. The UAE dirham was introduced on 19th May 1973. It replaced the Qatar and Dubai riyal, which had circulated since 1966 in all of the emirates except Abu Dhabi, where the dirham replaced the Bahraini dinar. Before 1966, the seven emirates that were to form the UAE used the Gulf rupee. As in Qatar, the Emirates briefly adopted the Saudi riyal during the transition from the Gulf rupee to the Qatar and Dubai riyal.
The oldest pearl in the world belongs to the UAE! It originated between 5547 and 5235 BC, it is fully intact and it has two millimeters in diameter.
It was discovered by French archeologists in Umm Al Quwain, in a grave site, five years ago. Their findings revealed that pearls were often placed on the deceased’s face, usually above the upper lip!
Like the man himself, Sheikh Zayed’s palace in Al Ain, known by most as Al Ain Palace Museum, is an oasis of calm and simplicity. Its red mud brick arches and walls, reflecting the colour of nearby quartz and iron rich sand dunes, amid lush green palm and mango trees, bring back memories of Andalusia’s beautiful gardens and old palaces. Peeping through tiny windows or small carved wooden doors, Spartan rooms fitted with modest furniture reveal life as it used to be all these years ago.
Long before the recorded history of the young nation we know today as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bedouin tribes would preserve their past, their beliefs and their wisdom in poetic verses. They were passed down, unaltered, from generation to generation. Even today, poetry is at the heart of Arab being, delivered in the dowry chest of each Emirati, poetry of love, passions, belonging, struggle that mould the spirit of each man and woman born of this land.
“A root is a flower that doesn’t like fame,” said once Khalil Gibran, a saying that seems particularly true of Al Ain. The second largest city of Abu Dhabi emirate is one of United Arab Emirates’ most precious heritage gems. Lesser known to foreign and home tourists, the oasis city is home to 7,000 years old archaeological discoveries and 19th century forts that bear witness of the history of the families inhabiting the area for centuries.
The first houses built in Abu Dhabi emirate in the pre-oil era were called Al Arish, the traditional summer dwellings. They were more of a shelter made of palm tree leaves. Al Arish had two parts: the main area, usually 2×4 metres, used for sitting and sleeping; and a smaller space, about 2×2 metres, used for cooking, storage and rising of animals. The Bedouins considered Al Arish their second home after the tent.
“A UAE off-roader was killed in a UAE desert with a piece of off-road equipment. Who was it? Where was it? And how did they do it? To find out, join the Cluedo trip….”
Of course, no one died, but Jenny Drayton, a marshal with UAE Offroaders club, runs this Sherlock Holmes-style desert driving to have a bit of extra fun and to teach a few sand bashing tips to new off-roaders, such as how to lift a car to fix a flat tyre in the sand without having a jack plate. Participants who managed to work out these tricky tasks were rewarded with clues to solve the murder.