Abu Dhabi: More than 80 residents and tourists were recently taken on a visit to an authentic Emirati camel farm in Al Ain, giving them a chance to see and experience what goes on at such farms and how camels live and are looked after.
The tour — organised by the Department of Culture and Tourism Authority – Abu Dhabi — took place on January 13 as part of their new ‘Travel through our traditions’ programme, which aims to give non-Emiratis a unique look at important aspects of UAE culture and heritage — key among them being camels and the integral role of camel farms in the lives of Emiratis.
Camel farms as the one visited in Al Ain play a much bigger role than simply being a place where camels are taken care of and, for many Emiratis, serve as a nice weekend getaway, especially during the winter season when whole families go out to visit their farms to enjoy the nice cooler weather.
An expatriate learning falconry skills. Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
“We organised this event to give people the opportunity to see what life is like at these farms and the environment in which we take care of our camels. Camel farms are very important to us because it’s where we breed and look after them,” said Mohammad Mattar Al Daheri, manager, Historic Buildings and Landscape, Al Dhafra Region.
“For our ancestors, camels played a huge role in their lives helping them with things like travel, trade and also food. So camel farms as they were back then were really important, and the farms are still there today albeit with a modern touch, with so many Emirati families owning one,” he added.
A family poses for a photograph with a falcon during the visit. Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
“A lot of people like to see what goes on inside these farms, so visits like this give us the chance to show them the different types of camels that are looked after, and the types of food we give them. We basically give them a good understanding on the role these farms play today, and the role they played in the past,” he said.
Mariam Al Daheri, public engagement unit head at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, said keeping past traditions alive was among the main goals of the new programme.
“Showing the people our culture and historical traditions is really the main point for this tour, and we’re doing it by also fostering a very nice and enjoyable environment for the visitors.
“The visitors to the farm are not only shown around, but we treat them as well to Emirati hospitality so they get the whole real experience just as an Emirati family would when they visit their farm. We want the people to have a nice time when they come and visit, because that will make them remember and appreciate the experience much more,” she added.
A father helps his daughter touch a camel. Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
Em Igwe, an American who visited the farm with his family, said the visit was a good way for residents to learn first hand about Emirati culture.
“I’ve been living in Al Ain with my family for two years, and we saw this as a good opportunity to come with the kids to learn about the local culture and traditions, and it’s been absolutely wonderful.
“You often read about something like this in a book or have somebody tell you about it, so to come and see it for yourself is an amazing experience, and for the children especially because when they visit the US now, they will have some very nice new stories to tell everybody,” he added.
His 13-year-old daughter Neso was in agreement saying she enjoyed the trip.
“It was really cool because the organisers drove us to the farm and we got to see all the camels. It’s much more fun and exciting to see it for yourself instead of just reading about it in a book in school.”
A group of visitors being briefed by officials about the farm. Abdul Rahman/Gulf News
Also visiting the farm was Colombian couple Selvio and Monica Perez, who have been living in the UAE for only four months.
“We are new to the UAE and so we wanted to know more about the native culture, and this was a very good chance for that. It’s the first time for me to see camels like this and I really found it nice. It’s been great living in Abu Dhabi, but we wanted to see something more than just the big buildings, and a tour like this really lets you see another side of the country with some of its deep-rooted traditions,” said Selvio.
His wife Monica said she also enjoyed learning about Emirati traditions.
“I loved seeing the camels, and I also really enjoyed the hospitality that we were given. I would recommend newcomers to the UAE to come to events like these, because you really get to learn a lot about the local culture and the country you’re living in.”
The next organised tour is taking place on February 17. Enquiries to register can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org