Those decrying the inauthenticity of glitzy, ritzy Dubai only need to make their way to the neighbouring emirate of Al Ain. Before rubbing elbows with the gentle, hump-backed giants, we visited the Al Ain souk in the centre of the city.
We were acutely aware of being the only Westerners in the joint. Locals graced us with long looks; their curiosity raw and unabashed. I felt a tad self-conscious and wondered if their long stares were in part due to my appearance; while I was dressed modestly enough in a long-sleeved shirt and cropped jeans, I was the least-covered woman there. I shrugged off my suspicions and instead took the opportunity to smile brightly at those staring.
We strolled briefly around Al Ain’s centre and I was struck by how “normal”it was. In Dubai, glass skyscrapers jockeyed for space around man-made bodies of water. In Al Ain, the buildings were dwarfs by comparison.
But we were more interested in the prospect of seeing camels, so we didn’t hang around the centre for long. Driving toward the border of Oman and nearly missing the camel camp in the vast expanse of roads, we arrived at our destination. Camels galore!
The minders of the camels practically leapt on us as our rental car pulled into market parking lot. It wasn’t difficult to see why- we were the only patrons. Leading us by the hand and emphatically crying “my friend, my friend” in heavily accented English, they took us from camel pen to camel pen, beseeching us to take photos.
So we did.
The glorious round up of camels made me smile. I love animals and there’s something about camels, with their crazy bendy legs and long necks that is endearing. What a great opportunity!
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