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Children learn Emirati traditions at Heritage Winter Camp

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Organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC) in coordination with the Ministry of Education.


While some of their friends are gone abroad for the holidays or stuck at home with their gadgets, around 40 young Emirati boys, aged eight to 16 years old, are participating in the Heritage Winter Camp at a camel farm Al Nakhra.

Organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC) in coordination with the Ministry of Education, the camp, now only in its second year, is aimed at building the youth's personality and teaching them about traditional Emirati culture in a fun and engaging way.

Participants were chosen from schools around the country. Last year saw the participation of 25 young Emirati boys in the inaugural winter camp and this year the number almost doubled. This is also the first time that the winter camp has welcomed the participation of Emirati girls.

The week-long winter camp for boys began on December 22 and will run until December 28 while a girls' winter camp, organised in cooperation with the Association of Women's Renaissance, will take place from December 29-31.

Khaleej Times visited the campers on Thursday. Under a safe and supervised environment, the boys learn how to ride and take care of the camels, hunt with falcons, shoot the saktoun (a traditional Emirati rifle) and perform Youlah (traditional Emirati rifle dance). They will also learn how to prepare and serve Arabic tea and coffee, aside from learning stories from Emirati elders.

The boys are divided into groups with dedicated mentors who supervise their daily activities and monitor their accomplishment of tasks. The HHC has also prepared at least eight big tents and increased the number of cameras in the camp so the parents can monitor their child's performance during activities.

The winter camp has been warmly welcomed by the students and their parents. Aside from promoting the UAE heritage sports, the youth are also trained to impart the spirit of Emirati hospitality. "I'm happy to meet new friends and try new things," 10-year-old Ahmed Abdullah Al Muhairi told Khaleej Times. "So far, what I have learned at the camp is how to adapt to a new situation and participate in group activities. I learned about the winter camp from Instagram and I immediately signified my interest to join it. Now, I'm learning more about Bedouin life and I have been having lots of fun," he added.

Mubarak Hamad Al Amri, 12, also expressed his happiness at participating in the camp. "I love to ride camels ever since my father taught me when I was young. I am also very happy to make new friends. We learned to shoot saktoun. We likewise learned how to be more patient and to follow instructions carefully to accomplish various tasks," he said.

One of the youngest participants, eight-year old Rayan Baker Al Mahasni said: "I've learned how to become independent and to do things with a higher level of confidence. We have done so many fun activities and I made lots of friends." Some boys added that participating at the camp helped them improve their character and the being good at decision-making. They also learned how to shun tablets and mobile phones.

"I learned a lot of new things at the camp and now I can help my mother prepare Arabic coffee and tea at home," added 12-year-old Salim Ahmed Suhail Al Amri.

Khalaf Abdullah Al Humairi, 9, said: "I do not really like playing with my gadgets and I love playing football and basketball to become more active. I have made a lot of friends at the camp and we are doing tasks together - this is real team work. Now, I want to participate every year in the winter camp."

Hind bin Demaithan Al Qemzi, director of events at HHC, said: "We are looking forward more participants in the future and enable the youth to learn more about our local culture; to practice self-reliance and nurture the social values that characterise our UAE society."

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