There’s this nifty group called Al Ain Weekends which organizes trips in the area. The wife and I and our friends Frank and Melissa joined one of these trips yesterday. The trip found us joining a convoy of fairly fast-moving 4x4s driving over a miserable, washboarded dirt road into the desert just outside of Al Ain. I’ve not been a particular fan of Kia quality, at least not Kia ca. 2005, but the Sorento managed to make it without losing any parts, despite the creaking and rattling that filled the interior of the vehicle with a constant din as we pounded along. Young Bennet, our friends’ 6-month old baby, seemed quite oblivious to the whole thing, strapped in what must be a very cushy car seat. The Kia, to its credit, did manage a bit of pretty soft sand without any issues when I put it into 4-wheel drive, and I’m more inclined to forgive its fairly significant quality shortcomings as a result.
After what seemed like a long ways of vehicular punishment, we arrived at the farm, nestled around a number of dunes. This was interesting for several reasons, not the least of which was the chance to see two baby camels, a week and two weeks old, in the company of their mothers. Besides the babies, with their thick, sheep-like fur, there were also dark-brown camels and nearly white ones of varying ages and sizes. Some were bred for racing.
There was a large male being kept in a separate pen from the others, in preparation to meet and mate with a female in the near future. I guess isolation guarantees he’s plenty ready for the opportunity when it arises. He seemed quite irritable, at any rate. Go figure.
Many of the beasts wore rope shackles around their front feet. I don’t know the reason for this, although I can guess.
These dromedaries appeared well-fed and well-watered. There were at least three men around who worked on the farm, which also had a sizable enclosure for goats.
The calves were, much like their bovine counterparts, pretty dang big, considering they’ve only been shuffling this mortal coil for a week, and very mobile.
A camel farm such as this contains all the treats for the senses that a farm elsewhere does. Put yourself there for a second. Your feet sometimes sink a smidgeon, but usually the sand is firm enough. Occasionally the wind whips some grit into your eyes. The air is redolent with the scent of fur and dung. There are grunts, whiffles, and growls as the large herbivores respond to an onslaught of touristy types. The mothers weren’t too pleased to have such a number people crowd around them, and eventually headed for safer territory, a good distance from us. For such large animals, they’re easily spooked and quite skittish. Our travel guide, the guy who organized the trip, had to ask repeatedly for folks to quiet down for the sake of the animals, who were often uneasy. Of course, I’d probably be uneasy if, out of the blue, two-dozen SUVs unloaded a ton of westerners and their screaming children and they mobbed me, too.
We took the chance to climb some of the orange-red dunes that surrounded us as our time at the farm drew to a close. The drive home was much more relaxing, albeit considerably more boring, as we left before the convoy did, and accordingly moved at a much more relaxed pace. It did have its moments of interest, however, as the sky, which had been threatening rain, finally delivered, and my meagre windshield wipers, victims of the summertime and, well, most all the time, UV light, soon were mostly tattered.