ON LOCATION IN THE UAE
I wake up to the silhouettes of mountains outlined by the rising sun. I fumble through my pack and find my alarm clock – it is an automatic habit – and look at the time. 6:50am. I always wake up 10 minutes earlier than my alarm, but this time I am grateful for my neurotic habit. The air that surrounds me is cool and quiet, the only sound the distant crowing of a morning rooster.
I am in a sleeping bag in Fujairah, in the campsite of an Emirati entrepreneur, Saif Al Dahmani. He is a man of medium height, with a bearded face and small, warm brown eyes. He wears an apricot-colored khandura, and a red-checkered keffiyeh wrapped around his head. He doesn’t speak much; when he does, he either speaks Arabic or mutters to the feast he has prepared for us. Plates of pita with hummus, breakfast cooked over an open fire, and an assortment of Arabic teas and coffees fill rows of table underneath a tent. Nearby, a campfire is burning, a welcome sensation amidst the cold desert winds that blow from the mountain peaks at dawn
Saif is an entrepreneur supported by the Khalifa Fund, the UAE’s government fund that helps to develop small- to medium-sized investments in the country. Saif used the money to build a traditional Emirati campsite among the mountains of Fujairah, offering a unique cultural experience that takes pride in its rugged hospitality. Stripped of the glamor associated with its neighbors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the campsite has far-reaching appeal: Saif has had guests ranging from intrepid backpackers to dignitaries from the French embassy. For entrepreneurs like Saif, the future is bright with promise.
Standing up slowly, every inch of my body tingles with awakening. The front side of the tent is open to the panoramic view of Fujairah. For those who slept outdoors like myself, Seif has prepared tents adorned with Emirati fabrics, ornately patterned and resistant against the blowing wind. Others slept in stone huts topped with large swaths of thin leaves.
I pause for a moment and look up from my notebook, and see that the sun has risen above the mountains. I let the warmth wash over me, and offer a small morning prayer in homage to the natural beauty around me. The mountain vistas of Fujairah rejuvenate me: I will return to the concrete cityscape of Abu Dhabi invigorated and refreshed.
[Photography by Geo Kamus]