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Camel voyagers complete a 12-day journey into the past

posted on 02/02/2015: 1816 views

Seventeen young people entered Global Village on Sunday after a 200-kilometre camel ride into the past.

They embarked on their 12-day odyssey of discovery with little but the camels beneath them, navigating by the sun and stars and surviving on the minimal supplies that would have been available to their ancestors.

With them was the seasoned Yemeni voyager Ahmed Al Qassemi, 53, a veteran of more than 40,000km of travel around the world.

"It was the first experience for many of them. It was successful,” Mr Al Qassemi said.

"You learn a lot from the camels, it's our heritage. Even though it's hard to make room for this experience in our metropolitan lives, this teaches a sense of exploration that you cannot get anywhere else.”

The camel train, which left Dubai on January 20, was organised by the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Centre, under the auspices of the Dubai Crown Prince.

Mr Al Qassemi has plans to travel around the world on camelback in 2020, in the hopes that he can share with others all he has learnt from the resilient animal.

"I want to spread the message of my land to the world, the message of peace and love and safety, and that at the end of the day we are all people,” he said.

Among the group was Emirati student Fares Al Hajri, 19, from Al Ain, who took the journey as an opportunity to get in touch with his roots.

"Of course, I learnt patience, an attribute I didn't have,” Mr Al Hajri said. "Before I was always in a rush, checking my phone, but now I feel I've learnt something that wouldn't have been possible outside.”

The group spent most the time with no access to phones or technology, and stuck to a strict schedule.

The day would start with Fajr prayers, followed by coffee and breakfast. The riders would then prepare the camels with an hour-long walk before mounting them for the first two to three hours of the day's ride.

Finding a tree for shade during the hottest part of the day was crucial, although the relief would not last long as they would be back on the camels riding until sunset, before setting up camp and cooking dinner.

"We had to learn how to cook and we learnt how to do it in the old style,” Mr Al Hajri said. "Although the first night we definitely burnt our meal.”

During this time Mr Al Qassemi would teach them how to ride and take care of the animals.

"I learnt things about camels that I never knew: how to use traditional methods of taking care of them, these animals on which we are reliant,” Mr Al Hajri said.

He said that one of the things he learnt was that if a camel was cut and medicine failed, they would be forced to use the traditional method of singeing the flesh to stop it festering.

"That was tough, but if I look at it I'd do the trip all over again and I want to participate in the future if I get the chance,” Mr Al Hajri said. "It was so much fun to see how our ancestors lived.”

Although the trip was originally planned for Emiratis only, Max Stanton, 26, an English-American, was among the group.

"It was harder than I thought but I did this to get in touch with Emirati culture,” said Mr Stanton, a consumer market researcher in Dubai. "All my friends are Emirati and I speak Arabic.”

He said the hardest part was riding the camels, as he'd had no experience.

"If you stay with one camel it learns what you like and you learn what it likes and it becomes easier,” Mr Stanton said. "Swapping becomes the problem.

"This brought me a lot closer to this place.”

Mr Al Qassemi has ridden camels through Africa, the Middle East and parts of South-East Asia, and said that every trip taught those who undertook the arduous journeys some valuable lessons.

"I consider this, first and foremost, a lesson for the youth,” he said.

"I take them on these trips and I also write about camels for adults and for children to teach them about this animal.”

Next year he plans to embark on the traditional trade route of the Silk Road, which would see him add to the 40 countries already travelled on camelback. – The National -


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