|If you want to see something unique to the Middle East, you can't miss the Al Dhafra Festival. There, in the middle of the desert near Liwa, a temporary town springs up each winter creating a place called "Million Street" because of the millions of dirhams that change hands at these annual events. Most of the money exchanged is for racing camels or camels in the camel beauty pageants, but many other things go on here: a souk, Saluki (dog) racing, camel races and beauty contests, art contests, date (fruit) packing contests, classic car displays, horse races, car races of different types and more.|
|Ben holds Ezra on a camel display in the souk|
The first place we visited upon arrival had a sign advertising "Children's Village" but they apparently don't open until the evenings, so we went to the nearby souk. There, a student from Ben's previous school in Abu Dhabi gave Ben a map and told him where the camel beauty contest and Saluki races were. While we were there, a sheik came through with an entourage and cameraman. We later saw his helipad with a helicopter and service men.
|Camels in the viewing pens for their beauty contest|
After the camel beauty contest, we went to the race track. (Betting is not permitted in Islam.) There, we saw camels racing with mechanical jockeys on their backs that are connected by remote control to the camel owner, who rides alongside the track on a specially prepared road and is able to remotely spur his camel on with the camel crop. (I suppose it is called a crop? It is some sort of stick used to prod camels along...)
|Camel herders move camels via the racetrack between races|
|A Saluki races for the prize|
After this, it was around 2 p.m. (Elias' nap time and the baby was also falling asleep) and we hadn't had much for lunch besides fruit and nuts, so we left. The boys slept most of the way home and Natalia read one and a half of her new Anna Hibiscus (not an affiliate link, we just like them a lot) books that she loves. I'm excited that she loves to read and that her speed has really accelerated this year! Ben was hilarious the whole way home creating comedies in different languages and playing two different people in each language. (In one of them he was a Spanish-speaking car salesman trying to convince another Spanish-speaking customer that his vehicle was better than the other burro option.) We laughed a lot.