Blogs from Empty Quarter, United Arab Emirates, Middle East

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Sometimes you just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you act like you know what you are doing and people believe you. Then, sometimes there is just plain ol' good luck. I don't know what twist of fate we were granted, maybe a little bit of all three. Either way, we are not questioning things, just enjoying ourselves! On New Year's Eve, dad and I were up to our usual low-key evening activities of sipping on lemon-mint juice in the bar, people watching, reading the newspaper and uploading photos from the day. The hotel was abuzz because of the festivities planned for the new year. I left the bar to go to the restaurant and was approached by a man I had noticed everyday we had been at the festival. ... read more
Studious Journalist
Book Cover

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 31st 2014

To compete in a a beauty pageant in the desert, it is not good enough to just show up with your pretty face or perfect hump. You must bring a little glitz to the show ring if you want to be taken seriously. And the glitz is serious business. Each camel or camel herd brought their own style to the grandstands each day. Much of the bling involved gold or silver foil sparkle and some designs with beading. The accessories were designed to add to the camel's beauty without obstructing the camel's beauty. The fancy finishings were draped over the hump, tied around the neck or placed on the head. And when an entire herd was being judged, the herd all wore matching accessories--like a team uniform of glitter. As with anything involving animals, there were ... read more
Racks of Bling
Finishing Touches
Will Algiers and Siwa Like This?

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 31st 2014

If your only exposure to the Al Dhafra Camel Festival is through our eyes, you probably assume the only things to do or see involve camels, camels and even more camels. That is only partially true. I only have eyes for the camels and the camel-related events, and that makes up a majority of the events, but there is more to the festival than just camels. The festival is an occassion to highlight various cultural aspects and heritage of the United Arab Emirates. There are competitions, that are rewarded with SUVS, that do not involve camels. We witnessed some of them, skipped a few others and some we simply watched on tv at night in our hotel. We went to the championship round of the Arabian Saluki Races that was held on the camel race track. ... read more
Saluki Race Winners
Lunch in the Souq
Just Like the County Fair: Last Minute Grooming

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 29th 2014

So we have arrived at the prized destination: Al Dahfra Camel Festival. We are here to take care of one of my bucket list items: to see the main event, the world's only Camel Beauty Competition. Yes, my heart is pounding just typing this! The festival, lasting two weeks, draws over 25,000 camels from the Gulf countries of United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Yemen. The camels involved in the judging are either Asayals (purebred tan camels who originated in UAE and Oman) or Majahims (purebred black camels who are from Najed, in Saudi Arabia). Both breeds are gorgeous, but very different in disposition and appearance. The most striking difference is the size. The Majahims are massive, absolutely huge. They are more spirited, talkative and downright intimidating. When the Majahims come toward ... read more
Dad Learning How to Judge Camel Beauty
Very Happy Camel Owners
All Smiles in the Winner's Circle

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 28th 2014

We've been to horse races, dog races, even car races, but none of them could begin to match the excitement, humor and intrigue of camel races. We had always wanted to experience this Arabian past-time, but never given the opportunity. That all changed at the camel festival. Not only were we able to attend traditional camel races (races that involve human jockeys), but we were able to spend some time at the race track watching the camels practice for the more common style of races where tiny robots are placed on the camels to take the place of jockeys. Prior to getting to the racetrack, we visited a shop where the robot jockeys were made. They consist of a tiny metal frame with a drill inside that is wired to a remote control car starter. The ... read more
Race Track Traffic
Let the Games Begin

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 27th 2014

Every afternoon around 4:30 or 5:00 pm the honking starts and so does the yelling. People are shaking camel sticks out of their car windows. All activity comes to a stand still with no plans of moving any time soon. Cars are at a standstill and so are the caravans of award-winning camel beauties. Everyone knows it will happen, but no one can predict how long it will last. The welcomed chaos can be heard from far away and there is no denying what is happening. It is not your typical big city rush hour. In the desert, particularly during the Al Dhafra Camel Festival, it is party time. The Million Street, which runs near the grandstands, turns into a traffic jam of celebrations and sheer joy. The winning camels leave the grandstand for the day, ... read more
Saudi Arabians Celebrating a Big Win
Kyle Braving Sandstorm
Saudi's Celebrating With Speakers and Dancing

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 26th 2014

If you have never been part of a camel milking competition, I feel sorry for you! This old school style of milking mixed with heated competition and adorable baby camels is a must for anyone. Okay, maybe not everyone would enjoy it, but we absolutely loved it. Like many of the events at the Al Dhafra Camel Festival we were welcomed right into the thick of things and front row to all the excitement. The participants and festival organizers seemed thrilled to have Americans who were so excited about their events and went out of their way to include us in the action. They also made sure we fully understood what was happening and why. The milking competition was held everyday for a week in the morning and in the afternoon (typical milking/nursing times for the ... read more
Camel Owners Waiting to Begin Milking
Dad Monitoring the Scales
Scales to Weigh Milk Production

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 26th 2014

When we first read about the Al Dhafra Camel Festival in National Geographic, we were taken aback by the breath-taking photos often found in the magazine. The bright colors, the vivid scenes and the unusual sights...we were drawn to the notion of a festival that celebrated the beauty of camels. There were photos of baby camels riding in the back of pick-ups, dark black camels often not found in the USA and other scenes we hoped to encounter in our real life experience at the festival. But there was one photo I never imagined we would see duplicated in action. This was a photo of a fully grown camel being lifted, by a crane, into a large livestock truck. The National Geographic photos illustrated a camel gracefully dangling in the air, her legs tucked neatly underneath ... read more
It's Super Camel
Being Guided into the Truck
I Can't Believe My Eyes

Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Empty Quarter December 26th 2014

When we discussed our upcoming trip, a common response from concerned friends and family was often "Oh, you will miss Christmas?" We were in a position where we did not have much choice if we were going to attend the camel festival. We thought about it, but knew the festival was important. We assumed we would head out on our travels and kind of forget that it was even the holiday season since whenever we travel it seems we are in an information vacuum of sorts, not knowing what day it is or what is happening at home. Forgetting it was Christmas time was not an option. From the moment we arrived in the UAE, there was no doubt it was the Christmas season. We rationalized that it made sense to spread holiday spirit in Dubai ... read more
Hotel Lobby
Christmas Cake
Entry to the Hotel Lounge


Anfangs Oktober hatte ich das erste und einzige Wochenende frei seit Januar 2011... ich war mit ehemaligen Gaesten campieren. Das war ganz witzig, denn die beiden Maedels waren noch nie in ihrem Leben zelten! Feuer machen und Abendessen kochen hab ich uebernommen. Beide haben ganz erstaunt zugeschaut und wollten Informationen warum ich das Holz auftuerme oder wie lange Kartoffel in der Glut sein muessen... war ganz einfach die beiden mit nem leckeren Abendessen zu verwoehnen! Habe gefuellten Fisch & Steak gegrillt und Kartoffeln in der Folie. Als Dessert habe ich ihnen Schoko-Bananen gemacht. Wir fuhren vom Resort nach Dibbah an der Ostkueste, direkt an der Grenze zum Oman. Urspruenglich war ja eigentlich ein 3 taegiger Dhau trip geplant mit Freunden von ihnen, aber das Wetter war angeblich noch zu heiss dafuer. Von Dibbah fuhren wir das ... read more
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