x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Ships of the desert bring cargoes of memories

Dubai Camel Racing Club conducts a loyalty march, part of a moving celebration of the country's desert heritage.

The Loyalty March down Diyafa Rd to Union House organised by the Dubai Camel Racing Club.
The Loyalty March down Diyafa Rd to Union House organised by the Dubai Camel Racing Club.

DUBAI // Amid today's celebrations of the UAE's transformation into a modern state over the past 40 years, one event stood out as a striking reminder of the past.

The sight of eight camels making their way down Al Diyafa Street as part of a loyalty march to the father of the nation, Sheikh Zayed, was a moving celebration of the country's desert heritage.

"Sheikh Zayed said if you don't have a past you don't have a future," said Abdulla Ahmad Al Falasi, marketing and events manager of the Dubai Camel Racing Club, which organised the march.

"Sheikh Zayed did a lot of things for the UAE's population and I am very proud of these 40th celebrations."

The at-times-unruly camels were ridden by club members waving the country's flag. Other members carried a large flag, and the club's traditional band of drummers and singers also took part.

Leading the procession were pupils from the Ahmed Bin Rashid School.

The convoy turned left onto Jumeirah Beach Road and then marched through the entrance to the Union House compound, where the union was created by Sheikh Zayed and the other founding fathers.

There they were met by women wearing traditional burka face coverings who were preparing Emirati food in barasti huts. The band performed beneath the giant flag that flies from the pole above the Union House.

This was the first time the club had organised such a march, as previous National Day celebrations had been held at its headquarters.

Among those watching was Allison Wicks, a resident from the UK who lives in Dubai and works for an Abu Dhabi construction company. She said: "It's wonderful. I'm finding National Day really exciting because everyone's getting into the spirit.

"I really like that sense of community and union so I wanted to get involved. I love all the cars and everything else."

Denny Varghese, an accountant from Kerala in India who has lived in Dubai for two-and-a-half years, came to watch the march with friends to demonstrate his affection for the UAE.

"I am proud to be here," he said. "There are good benefits living here, I enjoy my life and my job and everything."

Holidaymaker Jouni Pelkonen, who works for a phone network company in Finland, said: "I'm pleased to be here today, absolutely. I've been looking forward to seeing the march."

Providing juices for the marchers was Al Ain Farms for Livestock Production, one of the march's sponsors. Senior marketing associate Omaima El Sayed Mabrouk. She said: "We are proud to be part of this event, this is sort of giving back to the community."