Those of us that work here at the Transmogrifier tend to travel quite a bit. It is vitally important of course for our ongoing goal of collecting photographs from all over the world.
If you have been a loyal reader of our blogs (thank you!) then you know that it is easy for us to get caught up in the work of looking for shots. On an average trip to a location, we tend to take an average of 200 to 300 shots an hour! At that rate, it is easy to get focused on the work and forget to stop and enjoy where we are.
Recently I was in the United Arab Emirates, in an area known as Liwa, at a camel beauty pageant (yes – you read that right!) We were the only Westerners as far as we could see and in the midst of looking for good shots, I remarked to my wife that it would be nice to talk to someone who could explain what they look for in a camel beauty pageant. Just about three minutes later, an Arabic man walked up, introduced himself as Jaber, and with very good English, began talking with us and answering our questions about the very large (and I have to admit – beautiful ) black camel in front of us.
After about 15 minutes he invited us to come to his tent and sit with them for some coffee and dates. We agreed and we soon found ourselves being driven by 4×4 across the sand to a large tent on the top of a dune. There were about 50 to 60 men there from several countries throughout the Middle East. We were given a place to sit on low cushions and quickly served coffee and dates. We spent an hour and a half or so talking with several of the men there some of whom spoke English and others who spoke through a translator.
At one point I had gotten up to take photos, at the friendly insistence of Ali, a young man who acted as our translator when necessary, when we stopped as a couple of older men made room for me on the cushions and asked me to sit and talk with them. I sat for ten to fifteen minutes talking with them about all sorts of things, and asked about the thin canes that the men carry. Ali got up, walked across the tent, exchanged a few words with a man, and then came back to me, extended his hand and with a smile said “a gift for you.” I felt a bit embarrassed to accept it, but knew there was no way to refuse. I thanked him and the man you gave it up (which it turns out was Ali’s brother) and continued my talk (with the help of Ali’s translation) with the two men beside me, touched by their warmth and hospitality.
We were then invited to have lunch with them. Jaber asked us if we would be more comfortable eating alone and we asked if there was a problem for us to eat with them, to which he smiled and replied “It’s no problem.” We were taken into another tent where there were two large plastic runners laid out with trays of food and drinks spaced neatly around the perimeter. Jaber took us to a place and asked us to sit. The large tray in front of us contained rice, vegetables, and a meat that we were told was camel. Flat bread, yogurt, soft-drinks and water completed the meal.
The food and company was excellent and as I sat there, cross-legged and eating with my hand, I took a moment to look around the room at the faces (many of whom smiled back at me when we made eye contact) that looked different from mine – but were enjoying a meal with me just the same.
When you travel and meet other people and make the effort to get to know them, you will find that a vast majority of the time – they are very much like you and that makes the world instantly smaller.
Since this will most likely be my last post for this year (I leave for a week in Jordan tomorrow) I will say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Middle East!