Not two weeks on the Sheikh is again restless and wanting to show his Princess more of his magnanimous beneficence. He has arranged for a new Magic Flying Carpet (MFC) – after all, the last model had left much to be desired. So he called in a genie from the land of Al Futaim (Honda Dealer in Al Ain) and this genie, Hashem by name, produced a beautiful new MFC with sunroof, cruise control, climate conditioning, 6 stacker CD player and all the mod cons. A golden MFC – a reflection of the true love the Sheikh has for the Princess and an acknowledgement that the Princess must have nothing but the very best in MFC’s.
“Let’s go to the Camel races in Sweihan” said the Sheikh. “It is the 19th anniversary of the races and there is bound to be a celebration befitting a beautiful Princess. Gather together the hareem, bring along suitable chaperones and we will take the golden MFC into the desert”. So the princess called on Nerissa of Victoria and Moraig of Kiwiland and her companion Annette the young and thin, and the caravan left the oasis to venture into the desert.
In the town of Sweihan the camel owners, jockeys and their precious camels have assembled at the local racetrack. There are also colourful characters from “The History of Sweihan – Heritage and Culture”. There are carpet makers, metal workers, weavers, cooks and even a dhow captain with his dhow floating in its own lake (fed by water tankers to assuage the evaporation of the 35+C heat!). A group of young falconers, all arrogance and class, pose with their magnificent avian hunters. Dancers sway to the rhythmic drumbeats and tympanic of the tambourine. Youngsters play their games amidst the cacophony of sound and the dust of the desert. Men dance an age old chant and challenge their counterparts. A young man with a rifle in hand negotiates the territory between the two groups. The princess is overawed and the ladies of the hareem are aghast.
On entry to the race course the camel herders observed the caravan and immediately directed the Sheik, his attendants and the hareem to the VIP dining enclosure. All the important racing identities had gathered to share a meal; Emerati men in their sparkling dish dash, bedu dressed to kill (literally – they carried rifles and knives!), the armed forces, the police, camel owners and camel jockeys. A few expat guests were afforded good seats in the tent and we were shown to our table. Mountainous platters of food were spread around a large desert tent. Beautiful salads were laid out and on lifting the gleaming silver dome on our table a whole baby goat had been prepared and settled in a large bowl of rice and cashew nuts. The princess had some difficulty looking at the head of the goat and also consuming the meat of it’s thighs! In fact the princess couldn’t eat the thighs while the goats eyes were looking at her. The Sheikh however attacked the goat with aplomb and made short work of his appetite. All washed down with a glass of lemonade. On looking around the assembled crowd the hareem noted that the next table had been served a camel haunch, complete with hump of solid fat and the young men were going at it with their bare hands as if it may be their last meal. This meal was an Arabian Feast – a meal to remember.
The entourage moved on to the cultural activities. The Princess patted a camel while the ladies of the hareem stood agog. Annette, the young and thin, made the acquaintance of some bearded water well attendants, while Moraig of Kiwiland sized up the home made carpets for her suite at the Intercontinental. Nerissa of Victoria and the Sheikh recorded all the days activities on their magic digital image makers.
And then the finale – the camel races. Now what a spectacle and the camels and jockeys are really not the most spectacular part at all. The Princess did note it was very strange this sport of racing camels and she remarked on the young boys jumping down from the camels before they had come to a halt, the trainers racing after the camels to stop them and the obvious dangers of being trampled. However what was most entertaining was the traffic moving along next to the race. Twenty or more large 4WD’s and two coaches raced along the side of the track to ensure the camel racing enthusiasts they carried had a camel’s eye view of the race. Jostling for position and racing at top speed meant the camels were nearly obscured by the dust. At races end, to ensure they then had poll position for the next race, they would turn around and speed back to the starting line.
The ladies of the hareem decided enough was enough. Moraig of Kiwiland was ‘shattered’, Annette the young and thin had ‘had enough’ and Nerissa of Victoria had begun wilting in the heat. The princess also decided she had dutifully celebrated the camel racing anniversary well enough and urged the Sheikh to return to the desert camp where she could clean herself of the desert dust and quench her burning throat with the fermented juice of the grape. The Sheikh led the hareem out into the desert and the caravan returned to the home oasis. Another wonderful day in Arabia.