The first time I tried to visit the Al Ain Camel Market I couldn’t explain to the taxi driver where we wanted to go. He heard the word “market” and interpreted it as “mall”. “What do you want to buy?” he asked. On that occasion, we gave up and went to Al Ain’s archaeological sites instead. But this time, armed with a car and a map, we managed to find it quite easily, behind the Bawadi Mall, a little way out of town.
This is the only traditional camel souk remaining in the UAE and is well worth a visit. The Al Ain Livestock Market houses goats, cows and sheep as well as camels, and there is a lot of lively activity as animals are purchased and led out to trucks to be taken to desert farms.
But we were here for the camels. There were dozens of animals of all colours: black, brown, yellow and white. Unfortunately there were no buyers here today but the custodians of the camels were very keen for us to enter the pens and to photograph their animals. They answered all of our questions: the animals live here until they are sold (it doesn’t usually take very long before someone snaps them up), most of them are destined for meat but some are racing camels.
The Indian herder of the racing camels displayed his animals proudly. “Cheapest is 30,000 dirhams. But that one there is pregnant. Fine animal. 80,000 dirhams for her.” A mother and baby were nestling contentedly on the floor and he insisted that we have our pictures taken next to them. As we moved to leave he indicated that he would like a tip. 100 dirhams, he suggested, but we haggled him down a bit.
“I’ll give you 10 camels for your wife,” he said to my husband as we left. “Or 3 camels for your husband,” he said to me. I think he was joking.