Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How to Judge a Camel Beauty Contest

Note to readers: This is the final blog of a three part series about our adventure to the Al Dhafra Camel Festival. Top 10 Tips for Enjoying the Al Dhafra Camel Festival, Camel Bling-Bling and How to Judge a Camel Beauty Contest
An Arabian Asayles Beauty Queen.
The first time I heard about a Camel Beauty Contest I laughed. I had no idea these goofy-looking beasts with the big hump had a lot in common with very valuable majestic thoroughbred horses. I learned at the camel festival that a camel’s value, performance and beauty, just like a thoroughbred’s, are determined by their skeletal structure, the sleekness of their coat and the all-important pedigree. Both can cost an absolute fortune.

There is a disparaging saying, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee” because its parts don’t go together. But, I tell you that after our forays into camel festival beauty contests, I believe that a camel is far more complex and has a beauty all-to-its own that can rival a thoroughbred any day. 

Now that Roger and I are semi-pros on the camel festival circuit, I think it is time to impart what we’ve learned about judging a camel’s beauty. I am certain that newly un-employed American Idol judge Simon Cowell is rolling his eyes and touting that little “I can’t believe I am hearing this” smirk. But just eat your heart out Simon, this is way out of your judging league. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A TUFF Adventure in the UAE with 900 teenagers

The cavernous hall is set to accommodate 900. The band puts finishing touches on a few songs.  Volunteers struggle to hang banners on the stage. A group of helpers hustle to fill 900 “goody” bags. Performers focus inwardly, preparing for the show.

Outside, buses continuously arrive disgorging their boisterous teenage passengers into the courtyard. This mass of adolescent humanity steal clandestine measures of each other as they move into the hall and jockey for front row seats. The noise level is close to ear-splitting.  Roger and I sit in the audience stunned by the scene unfolding around us.

NET Team Band members (l. to r.) Emily, Laura, Becca and Mario
are cheered on by Mickenzie.

A music concert about to begin you may think?  

“We are chaperoning this group for the weekend?” Roger asks incredulously. All I can muster is a catatonic nod. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dhafra Camel Festival - CAMEL BLING-BLING

Note to readers: This is part one of a three part series about our adventure to the Al Dhafra Camel Festival. Top 10 Tips for Enjoying the Al Dhafra Camel FestivalCamel Bling-Bling and How to Judge a Camel Beauty Contest

Prized camel beauty contestants showing off their bling-bling.
In all beauty pageants what one wears is most important. Beauty contestants usually get decked out in flowing evening gowns and skimpy swim suits. But camel beauty contestant dress in dazzling bling-bling called hatat. The hatat is artfully draped over the hump and around the neck and face like precious jewels. Actually, some are jewelry as they are made with real gold and semi-precious stones

Roger and I are at the Al Dhafra Camel Festival located just passed Madinat Zayed in the desert off Abu Dhabi Island. Among the many events at this two-week long celebration are camel beauty contests. It is astounding that more than 25,000 camels come from neighboring Gulf countries to compete. And it is even more astounding that in the offering is AED 66,000,000+ ($1,798,365) in prizes for the various contests held during the festival. All this is enticing, but I am most intrigued with the camel bling-bling – a huge business here.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Top 10 Tips for Enjoying the Al Dhafra Camel Festival, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Note to readers: This is part one of a three part series about our adventure to the Al Dhafra Camel Festival. Coming soon are Camel Bling-Bling and How to Judge a Camel Beauty Contest
Stay tuned.
Al Dhafra Camel festival Million Street parade. See Tip#10
There is an art to enjoying a camel festival . . .

If you are looking for an authentic Arab experience, the Dahfra Camel Festival is a must see.

This celebrated festival occurs the last two weeks of December in a desert camp city that sprouts up just outside of Madinat Zayed about a 2 hour ride into the desert from Abu Dhabi. This is a serious festival. At the 2013 Festival, the winners of the various festival competitions took home 50 million dirhams ($13,623,978+) in prize money including 198 top-of-the-line SUVs.    

In 2012, Roger and I ranked this camel festival #2 in our 2012 Top Adventures In and Around Dubai; for 2013 it will retain its #2 slot. We just love getting down with the natives!

So here are my Top 10 Tips for enjoying the one-and-only Dhafra Camel Festival: