x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Land Rover is still no substitute for the camel

Country has managed to preserve its heritage because of the efforts of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, says head of ADACH.

Despite the pressures of modern times, Bedouin values remain as strong as ever.
Despite the pressures of modern times, Bedouin values remain as strong as ever.

ABU DHABI // Some say Land Rovers have replaced camels in the modern Arab world because of the need to speed up in this era of globalisation.

But that is simply not true, said Mohammed Khalaf al Mazrouei, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.

He was speaking at a news conference yesterday to announce the opening of the Al Dhafra Festival.

Mr al Mazrouei began by debunking the common stereotype that the traditional Bedouin lifestyle has changed over time. Camels have been dubbed the "ships of the desert", known as companions of the Bedouin for centuries.

Mr al Mazrouei mentioned Martin Buckmaster, the political officer in Abu Dhabi from 1955 to 1958, who was keen in observing to what degree, if any, the traditional Bedouin lifestyle had changed.

He found that Bedouin values were not undermined despite 20th century pressures. Viscount Buckmaster, said Mr al Mazrouei, stated that the "Bedouin life is as strong as ever. [And] the moral symbols that the Bedouin associated with sand were still alive and well."

To this day, Mr al Mazrouei said, the UAE had managed to preserve its heritage because of the efforts of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, who had "the ability to maintain the realistic and fundamental values of the Bedouin customs, even amid the attractive and colourful trappings of modernity".

"He made it clear from the beginning that the preservation of heritage, customs and traditions was very dear to his heart," Mr al Mazrouei said.

The Dhafra Festival, held in Al Gharbia in the Western Region, showcases the history and heritage of the area, aiming to connect modernity with tradition. The festival acted as a learning centre for all, organisers said.

ffaruqui@thenational.ae