Dubai: A caravan of 35 camel riders from 16 nationalities, including the UAE, completed an 11-day, 600km desert voyage and were greeted by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on their way to their final destination at Global Village on Friday afternoon.
The desert voyagers took part in the 9th edition of the UAE Camel Trek, organised by Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC), that kicked off on December 19. They enjoyed a unique desert experience akin to the old ways of the Bedouins as they navigated over 600 kms of the UAE desert from Arada in Abu Dhabi to Tal Mera’b, Alkharza, Qasr al-Sarab reserve area, Arabian Oryx reserve, Seih Almeih, Sweihan, Al Ajban, Seih Alsalam, up to Global Village in Dubai.
HHC CEO Abdullah Hamdan Bin Dalmook told Gulf News they registered the biggest caravan this year, in terms of number of participants and nationalities. “We started with 39 camel riders but four had to beg off due to some commitments; and, thankfully, 35 finished the camel trek,” he added.
Meeting Sheikh Mohammed
The HHC also shared to Gulf News a four-minute video showing Sheikh Mohammed greeting the camel trekkers on the road. Bin Dalmook said it was a “fitting conclusion to the desert voyage.”
“Sheikh Mohammed asked about the participants, how they lived in the desert, their safety, and congratulated them,” noted Bin Dalmook, adding: “The camel trekkers had a unique experience in desert, where they travelled of UAE riding only camels — like in the old ways of our forefathers. They passed through the sand dunes and ventured into wildlife reservation areas. They experienced the life of Bedouins.”
Bin Dalmook also expressed his gratitude to Sheikh Mohammed for seeing the camel trekkers. He added: “The aim of the camel trek is to showcase the UAE as a land of tolerance and to showcase our rich heritage to various participants who came from different parts of the world.”
One of the participants, Marie-Emmanuelle Checri described the 11-day camel trek as “physically challenging but really amazing.”
Checri added traversing the desert should be done in a caravan. “I personally experienced difficulties but I overcame them because I was part of the caravan. My friends helped me during the journey,” added the 42-year French expat who works as professional corporate coach.
“If someone is lagging behind, others will help him/her to keep pace with the group. Every day in the desert is different. There were we reached the camp early when the desert route was flat and there days we rode late, when we had cross elevated desert dunes. At night, we shared stories, enjoyed an Emirati dinner and slept under the stars,” she added.
Another first-time participant, Malika Kostenko, 29, a finance executive from Russia, said the camel trek “has made her to become more appreciative of nature.”
“It (camel trek) was the best thing I’ve done. Seeing the desert dunes, riding the camel and sleeping under the stars have made me closer to nature,” shared Kostenko, adding: “I’ve also tested my limits and discovered my inner strength. I also learnt to be more patient.
“I would definitely recommend to my family and friends to experience this authentic desert adventure organised annually by HHC,” she continued. American expat Taylor Dees also thanked HHC for the “once in a lifetime desert experience.”
The caravan followed a prepared route and participants camped at stations set up by HHC in the middle of the desert. HHC also gave them provision for the entire voyage, including food, drink, individual tents, and camels. They all underwent a rigorous training programme at a camel farm in Dubai prior to the camel trek. They learnt not only how to ride camels but also how to take care of them.
Among the desert voyagers were Emiratis Afra Rashed Ahmed, Ali Mohammad Aljaeidi
Hamdah Mohd Abdullah, Mohammed Musabah Al Makhmari and Ahmed Juma Alkaabi. They were joined by Aude Derflinger and Marie Checri from France; Salmaan Sekou Ahmed, Taylor Michelle Dees, Enoch Castleberry, Joshua Kolapo and Howard Leedham from USA.
From Yemen were Iman Mohammed Abdullah, Reem Mohammed Abdullah, and Bushra Ali Alameri. Also part of the caravan were William Henry Pardoe from UK; Cristiano Fregoni from Italy; Malikat Kostenko from Russia; Jean Pierre Bernardus (South Africa); Ronad Sachin and Joe George Joseph from India; Javed Qadir (Pakistan); Renata Padilha (Brasil); Rawan Samer Salah (Jordan); Lin Mazen Rihawi (Syria); Cyndi Faber (Luxembourg); Nicole Busetto (Italy); Emilia Piesker (Germany); Xiaozhe Huo (China); and Madawi Alahmad from Saudi Arabia.