The Camel Market

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About an hour and half outside of Dubai, nestled in the quiet city of Al Ain, in the back of one of the largest shopping centre, you’ll find The Camel Market. The camel is a key part of the UAE’s rich heritage. The Arabian Camel, the Dromedary, is a large even-toed ungulate and has one hump.  Historically, these camels were used for transportation, food and milk, which you can still be found on shelves in the diary department throughout the Middle East.  For just 10,000 Dirhams, you can buy you very own desert bred baby camel to have for a pet. The stalls are set up for you walk around and pet the camels from outside the cage and the keepers are friendly, in the beginning, when you walk up to inquire about the prices.  I’ve taken pictures near camels before, but for some reason I was nervous about the venture, since there was so many in the cage at one time.  When you walk up to a cage, the keeper will rush toward the rope, as the camels will walk towards you at one time, hoping to be freed and taken away to a home.  The market felt more like an orphanage for camels, than an actually market, the prices range from 10,000AED for a small child camel to 1 million Dirhams for an adult prized racing camel.

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Camel skin is used locally to make shoes, bags, water containers. In the Arab world, it’s wool is used for tents and rug-making.
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In the Arabic culture, a camel is assigned a new name every year. This camel responded immediately when the keeper called his name.

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At a glance, some of the body features scared me a bit.  I’m told by a  keeper, that they can be a bit selfish like people when it comes to eating the right foods and sharing. They hardly ever leave the cage, if so, they are transported to a track not far from the market to exercise to remain looking healthy and profitable.

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YES!!  I finally got him to turn around for a prize shoot!!

Sweet February featuring “Miss Sharifa”

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Miss Sharifa is a student at United Arab Emirates University majoring in Primary Education. U.A.E. University is one of the largest educational institutions in the Middle East.

Since starting my blog over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate to have visited and experience places around the world I’ve only read about in magazines and history books as a child. I also manage to take the time to speak to the local residents, who are quite friendly, to learn more about their culture and experiences.  A great meeting could start with a short tour around the villages, to studying different art pieces and clothing and ending with an opportunity to sample great food items happily prepared by a member of a family. In my short time here in the United Arab Emirates, I’ve met many interesting people and learned more the history of Dubai from listening to their stories than from visiting the museum.  Being the cultural junkie I am, I enjoy sharing my addiction and decided that outside of sharing the amazing photos of different places, it’s now time to share their stories.  Just off the brink of winning the Expo 2020, the city of Dubai, as well as other neighboring emirates, celebrated with a spectacular fireworks show and displays that let up the skies to let the world, WE HAVE ARRIVED!!  I was very excited for the city and hope to be around to enjoy the experience, but I know the feeling of the local residents were much more exuberant. I love chatting with many of my local friends here in Dubai when I’m out for coffee or strolling along the creek. To began my conversation series with these “Special Gems”on the rise, I decided to have a quick chat with my colleague Miss Sharifa, a future educator born and raised here in Dubai:

What brought you to the field of Education?

I enjoy teaching and like to help people. I want to become a part of a team of looking to help the education systems in the U.A.E. I am also working to build a strong career for myself by focusing on gaining knowledge and climbing high on the academic ladder to achieve a Phd.

Give me 2 words that describe you.

Friendly and Tenacious

What was your most memorable moment in Dubai.

I remember when my organization won the reward as the best medical institute in the Middle East, it was a great accomplishment for my city and we were all very proud.

What is you favorite place to visit in the U.A.E.? Why?

The Al Ain Zoo. You have to visit this place to understand that it’s not just a zoo but a wild life resort.

If you were to give advice to someone visiting the U.A.E. for the first 1st time, what would it be?

My advice would be to explore the Old Town part of the city before enjoying the nightlife and malls.  If you are here for a short time, visit some of the cafes to have tea and dates and chat the people in the community.

How do you plan to prepare for the Dubai 2020 Expo?

I am thinking of starting my own business, so it could grow internally and I could promote it internationally at the expo.

Good luck to you Miss Sharifa, we at Sandy Treasures are wishing you all the best!!

Celebrating Diwali!!

Had I been in the Chicago during this time, I would get excited about Thanksgiving being just a week away.  This is the time where I would find myself fantasizing about my mother’s cooking, having a long weekend to rest, watching American Football, taking up free city festivals and finally watching my city transform from a pumpkin patch pilgrimage to  a scene out of a Hollywood Christmas theme movie.  I have to admit some neighborhoods in Chicago really embrace their spirit for the holidays through outstanding front yard theme displays, an outrageous stream of blinking lights, blow ups characters and beautiful window decals.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get excited about celebrating American holidays that part of my life and teaching will never leave me no matter where I am in the world.  However, I have found a new appreciation for learning about other cultures and their holiday celebrations, such as one I learned more about a few weeks ago called Diwali!088

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A perfect ending for a great celebration!!

While driving home from the gym one night, I noticed large building from a distance decorated in array of lights from top to bottom.  I took a quick detoured through a neighbor in the Asian community, Bur Dubai, and noticed nearly every building had some sort of display of blinking lights and colorful cloth designs hanging from their balconies.  The community had just begun to celebrate Diwali, a celebration for the Hindu New Year!  087 072 075During this period, many events take place in the homes of family and friends such as the baking of Indian sweets and the lighting of small candles.  Ten days before the actual holiday, Hindus perform a special dance called, “Garba” and they burn small candles “Dewa” for each night, while decorating their homes with bright lights.  On the 10th day, the main day of Diwali, friends and relatives invite each other over to their houses to perform “Euja”, a prayer perform on the last day.  During this time, fireworks displays blanket the desert night skies for days and fresh bakes sweets could be smelled for miles. It was something to see, hear and taste and my friends made sure I was well-educated on their cultural traditions as they enjoy learning about ours.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I must admit I am very thankful for my educational journey, the more I know the further I go!080

Dubai Goes Pink!!

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The Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7 Star Hotel.

In honor of Breast Cancer Week in the U.A.E., the skyscrapers of Dubai have gone pink!! On my back from a training for the pink run, an annual race to support breast cancer survivors, I decided to share photos of the Sandbox pink skies at night.

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The Fairmont Hotel on Sheik Zayed Rd. downtown Dubai.
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The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai Healthcare City.
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The Crown Plaza and Intercontinental Hotel in Festival City.
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Festival City Mall near Al Badia Golf Course.

The Arabic Student العربي طا لب

Hello All, or shall I say ” اهلا و سهلا ابا شيريز” 010Most of my teen years growing up was foster in Humboldt Park, a diverse Hispanic community on the north side of Chicago.  I attended several elementary schools and later graduated from Roberto Clemente Community Academy, a school respectfully renamed after a true pioneer and leader in the Puerto Rico community.  I was fortunate to have the chance to embrace the culture, attend many festivals, sample great dishes at the local restaurants and even tried to learn Spanish so that I can communicate with my Hispanic classmates.  At that time, the thought of being bilingual was all fun and games.  I loved being able to say short phrases and curse words in Spanish, however I lack the motivation to learn it seriously. So like a goal without a plan, it became a wish and my  hope to one day be bilingual disappeared, temporally. As years past and I began to branch outside of my comfort zone, I’ve learned of the career benefits of speaking Spanish in college and it was then I realized that I had robbed myself of a golden opportunity to learn Spanish early on.  017I started to noticed everywhere I looked, a context presented in some form of a language being Spanish, Polish, Urdu or Mandarin, the world had truly gone global.  I  still never lost the desire to be bilingual, it was on my to do list before I turned 50, but I will wrestle with reason.  Up until 3 years ago, I had never plan to leave the U.S., I had a good job,  so what’s the point of learning a new language now?  Besides 95% of my friends spoke English and many members in the African-American community couldn’t be bother with the task no matter what rewards they may reap in the end.  Why? well many have their reasons, for some it’s the ignorance to global opportunities, lack of resources,the time to put in and study, support from friends and family, motivation, fear and patience!!

001My first attempt at Spanish was very scary.  Although I hired a great tutor, her accent was thick and hard to understand at times.  Just learning to pronounce some terms were weird and because I chose not to put forth 110%, never studied and really felt awkward after every session.  I could tell my tutor was very passionate about her work, she had mentor in the community for years and I felt liked I had wasted her time.  Just graduating from college, I was a young adult very eager, but quickly cracked under pressure due to my lack of progress and laziness.  I dreaded calling my tutor to confirm our meets, in my heart I felt liked the world’s worst student.  Instead, I just stopped going to sessions and avoided her messages, til this day I still felt bad about giving up so easy.  Ironically since that time, I’ve become a teacher myself and one of my biggest pet peeves are when my students are absent.  I even hate when they come late and parents don’t have a good explanation its torture.

011I recently experienced my second attempt at learning another language here in Dubai, where I decided to give French a try.  I’m learning that being bilingual in the international community is very necessary for career advancement, especially for high paying positions in all fields.  So why French?  It’s a universal language spoken all across the globe, the institute had a great reputation, my neighbor tutored part-time and it’s one very sexy language.  I decided to complete an accelerated course offered on the weekends, that last three and a half hours, a decision that I later learned was a big mistake.  The instructor took a more immersion style approach to teaching the course, which killed my learning self-esteem from the very start.  I was not allowed to speak English in the class, until after it was over and he seemed impatient when you struggled to learn the new terms.  The vibe in the classroom was not warm, I didn’t feel comfortable which totally clouded my desire to stay focus.  As I matured being a life-long student, I realized that in order for me to retain information it takes interactive learning.  This situation was quite different from the time I tried Spanish.  Here I was in a class of 12 individuals with me being the only American and monolingual, it was very intimidating.  I struggled with the grammar, lost interest with the instructor, who talked for more than two hours and I again began to chip away at my motivation to speak it.  Although I studied, I couldn’t practice speaking it daily to anyone accept my neighbor taught it.  I had manage to attend 5 out of 7 sessions and completed the course, learning very little or nothing at all.

023At this point, the average person may have given up, but not me. For some reason, I believed that I was capable of doing this. A good friend of mine questioned my psych (ha! ha!) and wanted to know why don’t I just study the language for which I’m currently immerse in now, which is the most culturally language spoken today, Arabic.  A language currently in demand, has a rich history and is very difficult to learn.  It ranks among the top 5 most challenging languages to speak and now I’m being encourage to give it a try, why not?.  This time I decided to do a bit more research about the institute I had chosen to attend, the instructor, reviewed the syllabus and looked through the textbooks.  After touring the campus and observing the positives vibes from the students in the yard, I register for my first course in Arabic.  I again started off at a beginners level, but this time it was different, to say that my instructor was amazing would be an understatement.  She was MAGNIFICENT!!.  She was patient, intelligent, outgoing and witty.  She made my learning experience fun.  I was able to leave the class practically remembering everything taught, as if it engraved in my memory.  I even scared myself, when I began to write and join Arabic scripts and was able to decode what I wrote.  I guess my biggest fear of all was being able to recite basic Arabic words aloud and making mistakes.  My instructor informed us one of the greatest fear of learning another language was getting comfortable with failure it will take a while to master any challenge.

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I recently attended a workshop on Dyslexia, where I learned that it takes the average primary student 3 years to master the Dolce Sight List, 3 years!!  She even challenge the crowd on the usage of the word “bat”, which could be used in several forms when constructing a sentence.  With all this said, I have decided to take the primary student approach to learning Arabic.  I made sure I attended each session and successfully completed the course with a high “B” average.  I enrolled in the next class, which I found moved too fast, so I decided to find myself a tutor.  I changed my schedule to meet my sessions and are now practicing and studying everyday.  With the benefit of living in an Arab country, I can now develop my spelling by reading everything in Arabic script.  My colleagues in the Arabic department were amazed and happy that someone from the U.S. has taken an interest in their language, they challenge me every chance they get.  I have fallen in love with this language so much, that I have already envisioned my future being able to speak fluently to my students and friends.005

I’ve achieved one of my greatest goal of reading a 1st grade Arabic picture book on fruits and colors. (Excuse me for a second while I jump and down!!)  So despite having to give this language thing one more try, I am now comfortable with my level and ability of learning a foreign language, الحمدللةاباحيد.

Many Faces, One Nation!

Like many Americans, I look forward to celebrating the 4th of July with my family and friends.  In many cities across the U.S., several events take place to commemorate the day our country declared its independence from Britain, on July 4, 1776.  Some cities host picnics, parades, barbecues, family reunions, carnivals and fairs.  Locals historians host ceremonies giving the history of Independence Day and ironically this day falls within the period of when many city elections are taking place.  During the election season, you’ll find politicians participating in parades, hosting dinners and giving speeches connecting our history with current hot topics in government.  The one staple I love the most about celebrating the Fourth of July is our city’s fire works show.  Why celebrate the Forth of July with a grand fireworks show?  Because John Adams, our 2nd president wanted us to, making Independence Day the National Day of the United States.

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Since moving abroad, I’m fortunate to share in another Independence Day celebration.  On the 2nd of December 1971, the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) was formed and has now celebrated its 41st year.  Just like the states, leading up to this day, many events take place throughout the city.  Schools host assemblies educating students on the history of the U.A.E and provide opportunities to share in the celebration through art and dance.  The locals decorate their homes and cars with the colours of the U.A.E. flag, which are red, green, black and white.

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Visitors and expatriates, such as myself dressed in an Abaya for the day, a traditional garment of Muslim women in the Middle East.  The city hosted the Dubai Rugby Sevens, a huge sporting event where people come from all around the world to get dressed up in crazy costumes, drink and have a good time with friends.  This year, we was shocked to receive our first thunderstorm in two and a half years here in the desert, it caught us all by surprise.  The U.A.E is one big international hub, one nation and many faces.  There are so many individuals from all over the world that currently resides here. It’s also a wonderful place to develop and grow in any passion you  so desire, Happy National Day U.A.E!!