Dubai: A group of 11 Emiratis and expats has successfully concluded a 10-day caravan across the UAE desert but not before getting a surprised meeting with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on their final day of camel caravan on Tuesday afternoon.
The camel trekkers — comprising eight women and three men, from the UAE, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa and Spain — took part in the 7th edition of the annual Camel Trek organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center (HHC).
According to the HHC, Sheikh Mohammed was informed of the route of the convoy, which covered around 550 kilometres in 10 days across the UAE desert. The camel caravan began their journey from Liwa’s Empty Quarters in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi on November 29 and they were on their way to their destination at the Heritage Village inside Dubai’s Global Village when they met Sheikh Mohammed in Dubai’s Al Marmoom area.
In the video shared by the HHC to Gulf News, Sheikh Mohammed is seen talking and congratulating the participants on the success of the trip. He also spoke with Abdullah Hamdan bin Dalmook, CEO of HHC, who led the camel trekkers composed of Sarah Steck, Gesa Eggeling, Jana Christin Schmiedel and Martin Kaiser from Germany; Emilie Chapant and Anna Aiko from France; Marian Valero from South Africa; Danuse Zdenkova (Czech Republic); Nonna Akopian (Russia); Ignacio Delgado (Spain) and Essa Al Swaidi from the UAE.
“The camel trekkers had a real experience of UAE culture and heritage as they travelled through the sand dunes and ventured into deep desert and wildlife reservation areas. They stayed in the desert for 10 days to experience the life of Bedouins,” said bin Dalmook.
He also showed his gratitude to Sheikh Mohammed for his kindness in seeing the camel trekkers. Bin Dalmook noted: “The UAE is truly a land of tolerance. It shows its love not only to its citizens and but to all residents of all nationalities. The Camel Trek is a testament to the UAE’s rich heritage and the participants came from various nationalities who learnt more about the UAE.”
Describing the journey
Sharing her experience during the caravan, South African national Mariaan Valero, 41, who first learnt about the Camel Trek from a Gulf News back in July, said it was “both intense and extreme that gave her close bond and connection with nature because when you’re in the desert, you will really marvel at things around you.”
Valero shared a typical day for them would usually start before sunrise. She said: First we pack our individual tents and sit down for a hearty Emirati breakfast before preparing our camels for the day’s journey. Luckily, temperature was mild the last 10 days but there were foggy mornings and our tents were really soaked with the dew. Days were really hot, especially when we were in the high dunes of Liwa — as we felt really closer to the sun.”
There were many challenges and Valero said the journey was really a test of physical endurance and mental acuity. They travelled for around eight hours a day and covered about 50 kms riding a camel.
“Because you travel with a caravan, you really have to push yourself to keep pace with the group,” she added.
End of a day’s journey varies daily. There were times they reached the camp early when the desert route was flat but there days they finished late, particularly when they had to cross high desert dunes. At night, they shared stories, enjoyed an Emirati dinner and slept under the clear sky and bright stars.
Czech who speaks Arabic
Another participant, Danuse Zdenkova, 44, from Czech Republic, said she has always been fascinated with the UAE culture and she speaks fluent Arabic. She said: “I work here with a government agency, and I live happily in the UAE. I joined the trip to discover more Emirati heritage and understand deeply the coutry’s beautiful history. She added it was her first time to take a 10-day desert caravan and she encouraged other expats to participate in future Camel Treks.
Overcoming COVID-19 challenges
Meanwhile, Hind bin Demaithan Al Qemzi, HHC Director of Events, noted this year’s Camel Trek was held during very challenging times, brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. She noted the desert caravan followed strict health and safety measures, which included COVI-19 testing done every four days in collaboration with SEHA (Abu Dhabi Health Services Company). Participants were also provided with individual tents and safety measures were strictly followed during the caravan.