x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ask Ali: Simple precautions make desert safe and fun

Best preparations for camping in the desert, and the history of dance and music in the UAE.

Dear Ali: my friends and I are looking for some fun adventures in the area and would really like to go camping in the desert for a couple of days. We are still preparing everything and I wanted to ask: is there anything we need to pay attention to while staying overnight in the desert? Thanks in advance, ZB, Dubai

Dear ZB: I think it's great that you and your friends want to camp out in the desert. I am sure you will have an amazing experience that you will never forget. Of course, spending time in the middle of the desert sounds like a lot of fun but it can also pose dangers that one needs to be aware of and understand. I will give you a few important precautions.

First of all, you should never travel alone in the desert. If you are travelling with a vehicle it would be a good idea to travel with another vehicle that one of your friends could drive just in case one breaks down - then you won't be stuck.

Also, avoid driving through the desert at night - it's difficult to see the dunes and what's over their edges. Definitely make sure that you have a travel plan and more than enough water. Tow ropes, sand channels, GPS and walkie talkies are good and necessary equipment as well. Knowing the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion can also save someone's life and I highly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the early symptoms. And don't forget your mobile phone, as you can usually find a signal in the desert if you have a problem.

I would also suggest that you first check out some of the famous camping deserts in the country, such as Al Fayah, Badayer, and Liwa. Many local families enjoy outings in these areas, and once familiar with the environment you can take the next step of going deep in the desert on your own with your friends.

Dear Ali: could you tell me more about the traditional dances and music of the UAE? GH, Dubai

Dear GH: I hope you are not talking about belly dancing because this is more of an Indian or Turkish tradition, which later became an Egyptian form of dance art. We offer such performances to the tourists but you won't see an Emirati woman performing it - nor an Emirati person proud of showing it to others!

We have different kinds of traditional dances. Our appreciation towards that part of our culture is especially emphasized during celebrations; for example, whenever a tribe won a battle or camel race, or as part of a wedding ceremony. Each tribe would develop a certain movement and style. These movements would be used for weddings and folklore as well as a way to show other tribes how honoured you were to be a part of your tribe.

During our traditional "na'shaat dances," the women would usually stand in a line and shake their long hair in rotating movements that went with the beat of the music. Men don't dance with their hair but have their own kind of "yola", "razfa" or "harbiyah" dance that they also perform when standing in a row next to each other with swords in their hands. Swords were often replaced by sticks and rifles. The men would move their heads and hands while dancing in back-and-forth movements.

Self-made musical instruments, such as a tambourine or a small double-sided drum called a mirwas, often accompanied the lead singer of the dancing tribe. Poetry is another important element that we like to incorporate into our dances. Our poetry would be sung in a chorus to enhance the positive atmosphere of the entire celebration.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow //www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

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