Dubai: A group of 11 camel riders from seven countries has set off on a ten-day desert caravan ride to celebrate the UAE’s 49th National Day.
The trekkers — participants in the 7th Camel Trek, organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC) — are from the UAE, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa and Spain.
They began their journey from Liwa’s Empty Quarters in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi on November 29 and their aim is to navigate around 550km of the UAE desert until the caravan reaches its destination at the Heritage Village inside Dubai’s Global Village on December 8.
HHC said in a statement that it’s a fitting tribute to the UAE’s glorious history. It is also a travel back in time as the camel riders will live a nomadic life, deprived of modern technology and will have to rely on their camels — the so-called ships of the desert — to cross the vast expanse of UAE desert.
According to the HHC, “The annual camel trek 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. Throughout the journey, the camel riders will not only have a chance to connect with nature, but they will also develop strong ties of friendship and camaraderie.”
The participants have undergone rigid training and the HHC has provided them with all provisions — from camels to tents, food and other necessities, including a medical team on standby throughout the journey.
Nonna Akopian, 40, from Russia, said the journey will provide her a deeper understanding of Emirati culture. She has finally joined the caravan after failing to participate in the last two editions trek due to injuries. She told Gulf News before going on the trip: “I’m really excited. I did a lot of training and my body is in perfect condition.”
“Although I’ve been in the UAE for a long time, it is really different when you are out in the desert — and we are going into the country’s deep desert areas,” added Akopian who is a resident of Dubai for 10 years.
Born in the Armenian Highlands, she said there are similarities between the Armenian and Bedouin cultures. “We have also lived a nomadic life. We brought our farm with us wherever we went,” she shared.
Communing with nature is what motivated her to join the desert voyage. “When you’re out in nature — whether in the high mountains or vast desert dunes — you feel the freedom, but you also feel small as compared to nature. So, you become more respectful of nature. With this trip, I hope to accomplish a better connection with nature,” she underlined.
Meanwhile, the most senior member of the caravan had a serendipitous encounter with HHC trainers that led him to joining the camel trek. Martin Kaiser, 58, from Germany, said he saw them busy preparing the camels. So he asked them questions and his curiosity led him to be invited for the trek. Kaiser said he trained daily to prepare his mind and body for the gruelling journey. He learned how to take care of his own camel. He was also taught how to saddle, tether and feed a camel.
Kaiser said riding the camel was really hard and little painful the first time. The hard part was mounting the camel, but once you’re on top, you just have to understand, follow and sway with every movement of the camel, he noted.
Travel with Princess
French-Japanese expat Anna Aiko, 41, is joining the caravan the second time in a row. This time, she has brought her own camel named Princess, whom she bought six months ago. “I lived most of my life in Japan and France, but the Arabian desert has always attracted me. Last year’s camel trek got me attached with the desert environment and this time, I’ve brought my own camel to further explore the beautiful UAE desert,” said Aiko, who has also participated in the recent Empty Quarter convoy in Saudi Arabia
Captain of the caravan
Like on the previous camel treks, Abdullah Hamdan bin Dalmook, CEO of HHC, has led the caravan. He said: “It requires a high level of fitness and training to join the desert voyage. Participants have to learn how to travel in a convoy, apart from getting familiar with life in the desert. But it always offers a unique desert experience on how to live the old ways of the Bedouins and forge camaraderie with other participants.”
Apart from bin Dalmook, the caravan comprises 11 trekkers (eight women and three men) namely: Sarah Steck, Gesa Eggeling, Jana Christin Schmiedel and Martina Kaiser from Germany; Emilie Chabant and Anna Aiko from France; Mariaan Valero from South Africa; Danuse Zdenkova (Czech Republic); Nonna Akopian (Russia); Ignasi Guia (Spain) and Essa Al Swaidi from the UAE.