Sunday, 20 January 2008

Can I see too?

Thanks to Ali, an Omani colleague, last Thursday, with friends & colleagues, I went to the largest & most important camel races in Oman, on an invite from the host- a very important Sheikh, one of the Emirati rulers. Until 6 am Thursday morning we were unsure if we could go due to over 24 hours of rain here in Muscat, (lack of drainage and flooding as water washes down from the mountains causes problems driving around), but on hearing the races were definitely on, we set off. An hour up the road the clouds lifted and we spotted blue skies.

It turns out that Ali is a very important man, so had reserved us seats in the front row of the grandstand (see celebrity post). The races were exciting, although due to the shape of the track we watched the majority on the large screen and only saw the final 2 km as they finished in front of us. For me, the last 3 races were the most exhilarating. They involved lots of camels ridden by men, rather than the normal young jockeys. I left the stand area to watch with the uninvited leaning/standing on the railing by the finishing line. Due to the nature of these races, there were lots of camels arriving at the finish line at great speed altogether, chased swiftly by the lads whose job it was to catch them and bring them to a halt.

When the races finished, it was off to the Sheikh's farm for lunch. Unfortunately, due to the traffic we didn't get to shake hands with the Sheikh, but still had the experience of being waved in through the crowds at the gate, feeling like minor royalty! The whole lunch was a grand affair underneath tents in the garden, and involved copious amounts of food. More rice & goat. We even got some camel to try; I hope it wasn't one of the losers. After the Sheikh left with his entourage, the gates were opened so anyone could enter and eat. I can't imagine the Queen doing that at Buckingham Palace.

From the Sheikh's we were invited back to Ali's house for coffee, and sat in a huge Majlis (meeting space) with some of his family for a short time before Ali had to join the Sheikh at a nearby village, and we headed back to wet, cloudy Muscat. It was an awesome day and I hope it is the beginning of a wonderful year! Sx

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