Hundreds of school girls arrived at noon on Monday at the 8th Al Dhafra Festival, taking place in the Western Region’s Madinat Zayed. About 15 buses, packed with young Emirati students from all over UAE, entered the festival’s gates to experience the Bedouin culture.
Accompanied by their teachers, the school girls toured the main sights of the festival, many of them experiencing for the first time the traditional Bedouin lifestyle.
“My generation is used to shopping malls. I know about traditional markets – my grandmother often talks about them – but I’ve never really experienced a proper one. The souk here is quite different from any shopping centres in Dubai,” said Shamsa Al Ali, a 15-year-old student from Dubai.
Preserving Emirati culture and heritage and passing it on to the younger generation is one of the main purposes of Al Dhafra Festival, which is now in its eight year. Organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi from December 20th – January 1st, the festival takes place in the desert surroundings of Madinat Zayed, in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, on the borders of the mighty Rub Al Khali desert, once the harsh homeland of Bedouin tribes, who used to cross it on camelback in search of water and food.
The hardship of those days only exists in stories nowadays, but the love of camels, desert and old traditions endured, being reflected in all activities happening at Al Dhafra Festival.
Altogether, there are 15 competitions at the festival, apart from the main camel beauty one, all related to Emirati culture and heritage.
Giving the shortage of time, the school girls only got to visit the camel beauty competition and the souk. “Sadly, we only had 10 minutes with the camels, but I loved it. I would recommend the festival to anyone, of any age or nationality. If you love the desert, or, generally, nature, and if you love animals, especially camels, you cannot miss this festival,” said Mariam Salem, a 16-year-old student, who travelled all the way from Ajman to visit Al Dhafra.