Under the Patronage of H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahayan
 The ENHG
Newsletter…

The Emirates Natural History Group, Al Ain Chapter, PO Box 18057, Al Ain  October, 2004– Issue #221

Iftar Dinner – 2004
    Seventy plus guests attended this year’s ENHG Iftar Dinner at the Zayed Center for Culture & Heritage. Gathered round tables in
Sponsored by The Zayed Centre for Heritage and Culture
with thanks to Drs. Al Naboodah and Adnan
& the Intercontinental Hotel Catering staff
for the excellent repast

the outdoor courtyard, wedined on a fine selection of local foods prepared by the chefs from the Intercontinental Hotel. Our thanks go to Sami Hattar (Intercontinental Hotel Sr. Sales Manager) and Chris Sanor (ENHG member) who put the affair together.
      After the meal, Dr. Al Nabooda welcomed us and introduced Dr. Adnan our guest speaker. Many of us remembered his fine presentation of last year and looked forward to another opportunity to learn something more about Islam and Ramadan in particular. Dr. Adnan spoke briefly on some of his own experiences and was easily able to assist us to relate to the simplicity of the occasion. The unifying nature of common suffering through hunger, the equalization of rich and poor in this month long conscious struggle with want, and the strengthening of spirit that comes from successfully performing this simple act against common human nature – were just a part of his message. Fasting is recognized by almost all religions as being an agent of purification. Iftar – the breaking of the fast – was certainly enjoyable.
      Dr. Adnan then took questions from the audience – the most interesting part of his presentation – as he put it – and finally, he invited each member to take a copy of a book he has edited – with the help of many young Emeratis who traveled across the land interviewing the elderly and recording their oral history. The book is a compilation of cultural aspects of the people of this land. It will be appreciated by those who take living here seriously.
      When we look around us and see the shopping malls, the paved roads and bright lights, it is hard to imagine Al Ain thirty years ago. Only a very well organized, industrious people could bring this change about. All in all it was a wonderful evening full of culture, camaradie and sincerity. Al humdillilah.


In the courtyard of the Zayed Center for Heritage & Culture. 
Dr. Adnan hosts questions from the audience.

A man who cannot fast, for whatever reason, may instead feed a poor man for a day,
as he himself eats.

This broadsheet is published free to families in the Al Ain area. If you are a member planning an activity with a natural history theme please notify us so that others can join you. Everybody is able to contribute to ENHG and Emirates recordings. For further of our activities please visit our website: www.enhg.org or join our e-mail discussion group at Topica.com. The Group meets at 7.30pm on 2nd & 4th Tuesday of the month, usually at the Intercontinental Hotel, check Topica for details. New Members are welcome.

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The ENHG   Newsletter…                       October, 2004– Issue #221
In-Ibri-ation - Oct. 27 – 29, 2004
article & photos by Jerry Buzzell
 
     Wednesday afternoon. Six vehicles in convoy! Geoff, Chris, Jerry, Hélène, Don, Bob. Twenty-one (or 22) people. Hilton to Mezyad border post. Hour and a half at the border. Hour and a bit on the road and into the Ibri Hotel. Check in, unpack, and down to dinner. Service was slow but the lamb chops were excellent. Bed.

     Up before Thursday sunrise. My room looked out on the valley and hills behind so I took out the camera and went for a walk. Sunrise and the hills were bathed in a lovely light, duly recorder on film. Then back to the hotel to meet those breaking their fast, to head into Ibri town and, beyond that, to Sulaif.

     Sulaif Fort is off the main road between Ibri and Nizwa. It is an impressive area, rising from the wadi bed and extending along a sloping rocky outcrop to a watchtower at the peak. Parking is in a flat lot on the wadi bed; one passes past a dry falaj to a doorway in the lower wall of the fort. The lower reaches are extensive mud brick structures in various stages of deterioration, so it is in fact difficult to make sense of the actual layout, without extensive study. I chose to take the fort as I found it, using my camera lens to pick out the patterns. I worked slowly through the ruins, to the sloping plateau and up to the watchtower at the top. Twenty years ago, I’d have climbed to the top of the watchtower but discretion got the better part of valor this time and I’ve left it for another incarnation.


Sulaif fort - an extensive mud-brick town overlooking the wadi.  
      From the fort, we passed through the village of Sulaif to the oasis, where Geoff pointed out the sloping area where bullocks once trod, raising water from the well below to provide for the falaj. The well itself is well preserved (pun intended) but filled in with debris. The path leads into the oasis, past some mud brick ruins, individual farm plots, some planted, some with date palms, many apparently abandoned. This is not a healthy-appearing oasis on the whole. Lots of dead and dying palms, a usual sign of a dying oasis. Geoff eventually led us to a farm which did appear to be thriving and the contrast with the rest of the oasis was striking. During the reconnaissance visit last summer, the farmer fed them five or six varieties of dates he was growing and Geoff’s reaction was that this is one of the best farms he has seen in the Middle East.
     It was now pushing noon and we spent some time wandering around the Ibri Souq before returning to the hotel for lunch and a siesta before heading to Bat in the late afternoon.
     Bat is noted for its tombs. They are mounds of stone along stony ridges. The hill we were on had five or six of them and they studded to edges of hills nearby. The valleys between hills had oases and the odd estate as signs of habitation, and foothills at the base of higher mountains on the horizon. We stayed there past sundown; the sky turned rosy pink but there was lots of mist which muted the afternoon light on the hills and tombs.

The Bat tombs are mostly rubble: note the ones on the ridge line.
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The ENHG   Newsletter…                      October, 2004– Issue #221
In-Ibri-ation cont…
 
Up early Friday morning for a 7 o’clock departure. About an hour on the road to Al Ayn and the necropolis. As Geoff had promised, this was truly an awesome sight. Jebel Misht rising sheer in the background with the foreground ridge studded with beehive tombs, much better preserved than those in Bat. I set up the tripod and burned film; others scram-bled up the slope to the tombs and explored them close-up. We spent about an hour at Al Ayn and then headed in the hills to Sint and Sent.
Up until this point, our travel had all been on good sealed roads. Past the turnoff to Sint and Sent, we lost tarmac and it was dirt all the way (except for one intriguing 20m [that’s metres, not miles] stretch with asphalt. In Canada, we’d have speculated that someone who voted the right way lived along that stretch). Though I went into 4WD for most of it, that was mostly to help pull the car up steep slopes, not because it was really needed. The roads into Wadis Tarabat and Jazeera are much worse.

Al Ayn necropolis with jebel Mischt behind 
After about 10km, we came to Sint, which is an extensive and fairly prosperous-appearing village. We spent a bit of time at the oasis there before hitting the road again to Sent. We pulled off the road at a lookout point above Sent wadi and oasis. Looking down into the valley, this was an awesome sight. The wadi bed was white stone but beside it was green cultivated farm fields and stretching off into the valley and past a bend in the hills was the date palm oasis. Finally, all this was surroun-ded by a broad ridge of mountains.
Down we went into the valley, pulling off the road and parking at the edge of the oasis. We then followed the falaj into the edge of the village, where the main attraction was a pair of huge and probably ancient sidr trees. That’s when the children started to be drawn to this strange group of people. Our group broke up into several smaller groups, with most going into the village. I have more of an agricultural bent so I hiked my tripod and camera and headed down the wadi and by the farm fields. This was a farming area which appeared to be thriving.
We had arranged to be back at the village by noon so to be away before Friday prayer time and so we gathered, but so did about twenty children of all ages. Lovely, happy kids. A few adults, including a young lady who was a teacher and had used Barb and others to practice her English. Apparently there’s no school in Sent so they all go to Sint for schooling
    It was time to go and so we did. Some of us pulled off the road beyond Sint for a discreet picnic while the rest headed back to Ibri and the hotel. We eventually joined them, checked out, and retraced our route back to the border at Mezyad and into Al Ayn (the Emirates one, not one of the Omani ones). An enjoyable weekend. The highlights for me: Sulaif Fort, Al Ayn Necropolis, and Sent village and valley. Thanks, Geoff, for organizing the weekend and guiding us - Geoff’s account of the July reconn-aissance, by the way, may be found in the September Newsletter.

The Sent oasis – a well worked farm – the village is just around the corner.
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The ENHG   Newsletter…                       October, 2004– Issue #221

Monthly Presentation:

The Al Ain National Museum Tour                           article and photos by Will Moore

 
      Thanks to the generous invitation of Saif bin Ali al Dhab'a Al Darmaki, Undersecretary, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, memebers of the ENHG were given a tour of the museum and laboratory by Ibrahim Lababidi, the museum laboratory supervisor.
      About 22 people gathered in the museum majelis at 7:30, and as we waited to get going, Brien Holmes presented long standing member Mike Gillett with a Lifetime Memebership in recognition of his immense contributions to natural history in the Arabian peninnsula. We then set off on our guided tour with Mr. Lababidi. Starting in the Ethnography Section, we learned of the history of family life in ancient times, up to the 1940’s when oil changed everything.

This Family Life display begins one’s tour of the museum.
(with kind thanks to the museum for permission to reproduce these photos)

A large group was able to tour the museum.
     Proceeding through the Family life section from childhood displays to Bridal displays and associated jewelry, we moved on to displays of agricultural aspects of life in the desert-oasis environment. The ancient falaj system for gathering water from the mountains and delivering it through underground tunnels is amazing to say the least. The Weapons section was of great interest to many. Some of the members were enthusiasts of this field, and great debate was held regarding the size of hole a Martini Henry rifle might make in a person.
     Falconry, the favorite sport of sheiks, was the next section to be viewed and then Life along the Sea in this extensive display of life in the UAE.

Moving on to the Archaeology Section of the museum we viewed first Stone Age, then Bronze Age (Hili) displays, Mesopotamian & Magan Periods and Bronze
Mr. Lababidi in the laboratory.
Age (3rd Mill. BC) artifacts. The Hili tombs section is particularly interesting as this site is very near Al Ain and is open for viewing in situ. Likewise, the Umm An Nar displays are extensive and very well done.
     We proceeded through the 2nd Mill. And Iron Age cultures and finally to coins and maps and the Islamic era.

A silver neckpiece.
      Sadly, there is no way I can convey in these few lines the beauty of the displays or the depth of research evident in the organization and presentation of artifacts.
      Having toured the museum, we proceeded to the laboratory where our host not only explained many of the tools and procedures used in museum craft, he showed us our own artifacts turned in after the Jabeeb trip in September. He had cleaned up some coins and arrowheads and examined the bracelet and pottery shards. This has to be the best museum laboratory in the UAE. Everything was being used. Everything is recorded. The standard is very high.
      To round out the evening, we toured the old fort with its wonderful collection of old photographs on display along the walls of the inner rooms. For more information on the museum, I suggest the museum website at: http://www.aam.gov.ae/ - enjoy the trip.
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The ENHG   Newsletter…                   October, 2004– Issue #221
Camel Racing Season Begins Again
article & photos by Murphy turner
 
    Thursday afternoon October 6th 40-50 ENHG members from Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai headed for Sweihan for the 13th Traditional Heri-tage Camel Races. They have built a new pavilion for the racetrack and we were treated to VIP seating. Juice, Arabic coffee and dates were handed out on arrival. We arrived as the second race was just underway. In between the races, the men were singing and dancing the traditional cane dance. The women came out and performed the hair dance numerous times throughout the afternoon. As a special treat, they let us wander close to the dancers and the track (picture Jerry catching the perfect shot of the dancers, from unusual perspectives). We were standing right there as the camels crossed the finish line—with or without a rider.
     For a different perspective, many of us rode the bus out to follow the race along the track, enjoying watching the camels up close. Another sight on the bus ride was the dozens of 4X4’s also driving next to the track, driven by Emiratis and filled with people leaning out the windows and yelling for their favorite jockey and camel. Other ENHG members enjoyed sitting in the typical Arabian upholstered, wide seats and watching the festivities in luxury. It was truly a festive occasion for the UAE Nationals and we enjoyed their enthusiasm for the race along with the over-the-top Arabian hospitality that was bestowed upon us.

The VIP tent – lots of activity going on.

The camel races with accompanying vehicles

    The race is to promote camel racing for the UAE Nationals. It is also the start of the camel-racing season. Each race is by age category and all jockeys are UAE Nationals. At the conclusion of the 12 races each winner of the race received a gold sword plus a generous cash prize.
     It was a memorable event and we all felt we had participated and seen the culture and heritage of the local people.

 The Hair Dancers - color and grace

The Cane Dancers - men at work
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The ENHG   Newsletter…                     October, 2004– Issue #221
Weekly Outings
Fossil Valley
by Brien Holmes
 
    The Friday morning trip to Fossil Valley actually began on Thursday afternoon when 10 small mam-mal traps, on loan from ERWDA, were set up in Fossil Valley, along with insect traps, both pitfall and water traps. Thanks to Chris Drew and his father for helping to set up the mammal traps.

    On Friday morning, our first stop was to the traps to release any animals that may have been lured into the traps by the inviting rolled oats! Of the 10 traps, six remained open and there was little or no evidence that any visitor had been interested in the rolled oats. Of the remaining


A large male Lybian jird (Meriones lybicus)        Photo by B. Reimer

traps, only one yielded a catch. The group did not repeat the error of the first effort at trapping in Fossil Valley from previous years; rather than simply release the animal and hope to get a photo as it scampered away, the catch was carefully released into a clear plastic bag for identification. This year’s catch was a single but large male Lybian jird (Meriones lybicus).

The insect traps yielded, among other things, a ground mantis and mole cricket. Other stops in Fossil Valley included an area near the top of the escarpment where geckos often deposit eggs; of two nests inspected, there was one egg. After looking for some interesting fossils, the group also searched for one of two flint sites located on the top of the ridge that forms the horseshoe-shaped escarpment around three sides of the valley. It appeared that wind-blown sand had covered the flint sites temporarily; a return trip will be organized later this year to search for evidence of flint working.

 

 
Extra Outing       -       Birding
    Finding a birding trip leader has been a problem ever since I’ve been involved with the ENHG. I think the first question I received after review of my interests on my membership form where I’d checked off “birds” was if I would be interested in leading a trip. Last year we were fortunate to have Steve James from the Abu Dhabi group lead a field trip. We were very fortunate this year that Huw Roberts, who arrived at UAEU last year, has agreed to lead a trip or two this year. Huw is an avid birder and has been in the Middle East for a number of years so is familiar with the species to be expected in the area. The first field trip was held on Wednesday, October 6th. Five members from ENHG joined Huw and his fellow birder,
Article and photo by Bob Reimer


                 Birding was especially good at the Buraimi site.

Pavel at the Buraimi Hotel in the late afternoon. Huw prepared us by reviewing a list of bird species that were likely to be found and some of their characteristics. Our first stop was the Buraimi sewage works. While sewage works might conjure foul odors and ugly sights to many of us, to birders, the sewage works is a magnet for water birds that mightn’t be seen normally, especially in a desert climate like Al Ain. Our trip was amply rewarded by many species of shore birds such as snipes and stilts. After a tour of the sewage works, Huw and Pavel took us out to a wadi to see if we could see Liechtenstein Sand Grouse coming in for a drink and to roost for the night. While we never got a good look at them, 4 probable grouse flapped quickly overhead as we were sitting by the pool. As darkness thickened, we enjoyed the sounds of birds in the area. It was a very pleasant evening and educational for those of us who are unfamiliar with the birds of the UAE and Oman. Thanks again to Huw and Pavel for leading us. We hope you enjoyed yourselves enough to escort us on another expedition soon.
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The ENHG   Newsletter…                      October, 2004– Issue #221
Weekly Outings cont…
Khutwa village, oasis, wadi & gorge
by Karen Hale-Cowan
 
    About a dozen of us, met at the Intercontinental Hotel, piled into the available 4 wheel drive vehicles and headed off into Oman to visit Khutwa. We parked, grabbed our bags and wandered off into the village and oasis. Along the way we were lucky enough to find remnants of copper smelting. It felt quite eerie trying to fit my fingers into the hand-prints left in the mud bricks by the workers long ago.
     There were numerous trees, bushes, insects, birds and unseen but rustling small creatures to hear and look at on the way; it always amazes me how much life there is in a desert. Why I imagined them to be sterile and lifeless I will never know. While our photographer took a group off to look at the animate desert dwellers, the


The group descends into the Khutwa gorge.        photo by Bob Reimer

rest of us went to explore the gorge. With all the modern pres-sure on the water table, and the dryness of the summer weather, the wadi was mostly dry. We followed the channel gouged into the rock over the centuries, passing through various sedimentary layers as we headed deeper until we reached a cathedral like enclosure deep in the bedrock. It was fascinating to see that despite the attempts of the villagers to capture the precious water and direct it though hoses to their crops, the water still managed to seep through the porous rock from time to time.
     It was at the cathedral that we needed to make the decision whether or not to slither over a 1.5 metre shelf and continue to follow the wadi, or to turn back; since we were equipped with ropes – just in case – most of us decided to continue. The lower we got the more small pools of water we encountered. It was pleasantly cooling to swish through the knee high water. One pool we waded through was chest high (although being the shortest member, I had to swim because it was over my head). It was deliciously soothing in the heat. My clothes took only 10 minutes to dry completely, although my boots took a little longer. Eventually, we had to turn back at a deep narrow gorge which dropped off into a deep pool. With our cameras and (mainly non-waterproof) packs, to go on was just too difficult.
     On the way back to the cars, we toured through the oasis. It was thronged with date palms and surrounded by small terraced fields growing coriander (known as cilantro by the Americans), rocket and radishes with a few onions and some chard tucked away in odd corners. In the village, we stopped and took coffee and dates with a villager who was most generously hospitable.
     We were lucky enough to encounter the Clock-keeper in the village square. He kindly showed us how his feet measured out each half hour, so that a large stone could be placed at every four hour division from sunrise to sunset, and smaller ones at the one hour divisions. When the shadow from the central pole fell on one of the large stones, then the people would know it was time for prayer. Unfortunately, some outsider had parked over part of the clock obscuring and distorting the shadow which pointed out the time. We had a wonderful morning and were back in time for an afternoon nap during the heat of the day.


In the gorge – brilliant sun – black shade – water
underfoot – cool air – verrrrry nice!

photo by Khudooma Al Naimi

Environmentalists have long been fond of saying that the sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated as it is some ninety-three million miles away.
~Stephanie Mills, ed., In Praise of Nature, 1990

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The ENHG   Newsletter…                      October, 2004– Issue #221
Weekly Outings cont…
Jebel Hafit Tombs                               by Brien Holmes

    Another site visited for the first time in several years was the location of reconstructed and in situ tombs at the base of Jebel Hafit, along the eastern side of the mountain. Although the Jebel Hafit tombs have been included in the sites visited during the Al Ain Music Festival, it had been at least three years since the group had scheduled a field trip to the site.
     The tombs are located about two-thirds of the way along the length of Jebel Hafit, almost seven kilometers across the gravel plain from the truck road. At least six of the tombs have been reconstructed to create distinctive beehive shaped tombs that feature a single burial chamber and narrow passage. On the nearby slopes at the base of Jebel Hafit are at least six additional tombs, three of which have not been excavated.
     Archaeologists have concluded the tombs are among the oldest signs of civilized habitation of the region, the tombs dating back up to 5000 years. No evidence of a settlement area has been found associated with the tombs.
Just a few meters from some of the reconstructed tombs is a traditional ‘mountain’ home, the single-roomed resi-dence dug about 30 cm into the gravel bed and a stone wall built around the opening, over which a roof of thatch or animal hides was suspended. The house is a modern creation, built in conjunction with a film produced a few years ago on Al Ain and the copper smelting industry.


                  The Jebel Hafit tombs – reconstructed
                                                                               
photos by Will Moore


All the openings face south
    The house and tombs are at the entrance to a dramatic geological feature at the base of Jebel Hafit, an indentation into the mountain created when softer rock eroded and the ‘roof’ collapsed creating a roofless cave approximately 40 meters from front to back and 30 meters deep (from bottom of the ‘cave’ to the rock arch above). The ‘cave’ could also have been created as residents removed rock and rubble from the area to construct tombs. Group members were relieved to see that all evidence of the well drilling that had taken place a few meters from the tombs had been removed.
Mike Gillett
receives Lifetime
ENHG Membership

    Local members will miss Mike as he is retiring at the end of October, after 13 years in the UAE Mike’s contribution to the study of beetles, butterflies & many other insect groups in this area of the world has been considerable. At the Museum tour this month, he was presented with his award, and later, at a workshop session, he received a special mercury-vapor lamp to help him find his way through the dark outer world – and perhaps to attract a few beetles into his sphere of inquiry. Best of luck, Mike!


Right: the beetle logo Mike designed
For the ENHG.

Brien Holmes presents Lifetime
membership to Mike Gillett.

Mike is pleased with the mercury-
vapor lamp.
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The ENHG   Newsletter…                       October, 2004– Issue #221
Weekly Outings cont…
 

Kahal to Wadi Sharm Drive             by Brien Holmes

  Finally, the October Friday field trips included the drive from Kahal to Wadi Sharm, a trip that takes visitors from the small settlement of Kahal, where the group’s friend Salem maintains a typical farm, through dunes and the foothills of the Hajar Mountains to Wadi Sharm.
     This trip began with an unscheduled stop at some ruins just before Kahal at what had appeared to be a tradi-tional well. The construction was, in fact, a house, the mud brick structure visible from the road, a smaller stone ‘mountain’ house located inside the walls defining the occupied area. While visitors were exploring the site, a pickup truck drove up and the driver explained that he had once lived in the house, perhaps 50 or 60 years ago. There was evidence of a well just beyond the walls of the house. Later, two young men who had been working at a nearby farm came and explained they believed the structure had once been used as a mosque; however, there was no evidence of any of the features normally associated with a mosque.


Fifty or sixty years ago, this was my house.            
photos by Geoff Sanderson

Highlights of the drive included:
- a stop at the inverted stratified rock just beyond Kahal, at the beginning of the sand track
- the ghaf forest where a camel rider stopped to visit and offer rides to members; the nearby dunes showed evidence of beetles, gerbils and geckos;
- graves on the gravel plain just west of Nuway;
- the undulating features of ‘Big Red’ on the edge of Wadi Sharm;
- the copper smelter sliced by the road on the edge of Nuway, and the nearby clay and water trap; and
- the unusual copper smelters and meandering falaj that provides water to Nuway, courtesy of the residents of Sharm village, located about 5 km upstream.
Thanks to all the drivers who shared space in their vehicles for those who do not have off-road vehicles.

A camel rider offered members rides
The blue skies,

distant mountains,

red sands &

brown rock

make incredible scenery

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The ENHG   Newsletter…                      October, 2004– Issue #221
2004-05 ENHG Photography Competition: Guidelines and Rules
May 24th, 2005, at the InterCon
 

This is to announce the 2004-05 version of the Al Ain ENHG's annual photography competition, where the UAE's finest amateur photographers (you) vie for glory and prizes.
The competition is open to amateur photographers who are members of the Al Ain chapter of the ENHG. All photos must have a natural history theme and have been taken in the UAE or Oman. They may be oriented either horizontally or vertically ( 'landscape' or 'portrait'). Photos must be mounted (matted). The long side of the photo (without the matting) can be between 20 and 30 cm (8-12 inches). Each member may enter a maximum of 8 photos.

Categories:
1. Architecture and Archaeology
2. Culture and Heritage
3. Field Trips and Care of the Environment
4. Flora and Fauna
5. People of the UAE and Oman
6. 'Scapes (landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes, cityscapes, etc.)
7. Miscellaneous (pictures that don't fit easily into the other 6 headings)
(The organizers and judges reserve the right to alter/amend these categories or to add other categories. A category with fewer than 10 entries will likely be scrapped and entries slotted into other categories, for instance, Miscellaneous.)
Deadlines: All entries must be delivered to a member of the Committee by the end of the ENHG meeting of May 10th. Earlier delivery of entries will be appreciated.

All photos entered MUST have the following information on the back:
• Photographer's name,
• E-mail address and/or phone number,
• A title for the photo,
• The location the photo was taken and approximate date,
• The category entered.
Be as specific as possible when giving the location (e.g. "Dubai Creek" or "Al Ain Oasis" rather than "UAE"; "Nizwa Souq" or "Wadi Khutwa", not "Oman"). Entries not adhering to these rules may be displayed, but will not be judged.
Decisions of the judges are final.

Copyright remains with the photographer. However, by entering, the ENHG assumes that you give us the right to scan the photo and display it on the website and in a CD-ROM, which may be offered for sale to members.
Questions or concerns? Contact me or one of the members of the Committee.
Good shooting,
Jerry                                                                                  (for some additional comments – see the last page)

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The ENHG   Newsletter…                    October, 2004– Issue #221

Book Review: TRAVELS WITH A TANGERINE
A Journey in the footnotes of Ibn Battutah
By Tim Mackintosh-Smith (Picador) ISBN 0-330-49114-8
People's Choice winner:    
                                                             By Geoff Cosson

      I vividly remember school lessons about the heroic ‘voyages of discovery’, but only later realized that such ‘discovery’ was a very European-centric view. The native Americans & Australians clearly already knew they were there.
Similarly, when we enthuse about epic journeys, we often forget that it was local guides who led these great adventurers. Vasco da Gama ‘found’ the route to India because he hired an Arab pilot in Africa. Without detracting from the exploits of people like Philby, Thomas and Thesiger in the Arab world, we should remember that they were following routes well-trodden by local traders and travelers.
     The greatest traveler in the Arab world was undoubtedly Ibn Battutah, whose incredible achievement is now being recognized, especially in his native Morocco. He was born in Tangier, (hence the title of this book, which was first published in 2001), and set out on what was to be a lifetime journey of maybe
 
75,000 miles, lasting nearly 30 years. He trained as an Islamic lawyer, and set off in 1325, initially to Mecca. With his marketable skills, he was able to work and travel throughout the Muslim world, and as far as India and China, and just about everywhere in between (no employment visa troubles for him).
On his eventual return to Tangier, he dictated his memoirs, which were widely read in the Arab world.
In this book, Tim Mackintosh-Smith does not recount these adventures, but uses them as a traveling companion, retracing the first journey as far as Constantinople, via Egypt and what we now know as Oman. He intersperses Ibn Battutah’s descriptions of what he saw, with a current perspective on the same places, lively, humorous and perceptive, based on his own experience as an Arabic scholar and linguist.
The comments on what has happened to Arabia and the people who live here, are especially interesting to us. This is a truly exceptional, entertaining book.

(An excellent website is <www.isidore-of-seville.com/ibn-battuta>

A bit more on Ibn Battutah                                                                                            by Denise Caparelli Lee

     Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad - Din, was born at Tangier, Morocco, between 1303 and 1305 and died between 1365 and 1377 at Fez in 1368 or 1369.
      Ibn Battuta started on his travels when he was 21 years old in 1325. His main reason to travel was to go on a Hajj, or a Pilgrimage to Mecca. But his travelling went on for about 29 years and he covered about 75,000 miles (120,700 km), which at the time was farther than anyone else in the world had travelled, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries which were then mostly under the governments of Muslim leaders of the World of Islam, or "Dar al-Islam". Among other places, he visited Africa, Russia, India, Ceylon (present Sri Lanka) China, Turkey, Bulgaria, Persia. He served the Chinese Emperor, the Mongol Emperor and the Islamic Sultan in a variety of diplomatic positions.
      Near the end of Ibn Battuta's own life, the Sultan of Morocco insisted that Ibn Battuta dictate the story of his travels to a scholar and today we can read translations of that story called "Rihlay"/"Rihala" ("My travels"/ "Journey"), filled with information on the politics, social conditions and economics of the places he visited. Much of it is fascinating, but some of it seems to be made up and even is inaccurate about places we know about. However, it is a valuable record of places which add to our understanding of the Middle Ages.
If you want to read more about Ibn Buttuta:

  Dunn, Ross, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989. This book is about the societies into which Ibn Battuta traveled. It is outstanding in giving a historical context to Ibn Battuta's story.
   Gibb, H.A.R., The Travels of Ibn Battuta, Vols. I, II, III, Hakluyt Society, Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, London, 1956. A translation and notes from the Arabic "Rihla" of Ibn Battuta.
   Said Hamdun & Noel King, Ibn Battuta in Black Africa (foreword by Ross Dunn), Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton, 1975.
   Ibn Buttuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1345, Published by Routledge and Kegan Paul.
   The Introduction to the "Voyages of Ibn Battutah" by Vincent Monteil in The Islamic Review and Arab Affairs. March 1970: 30-37
   Travellers and Explorers, IQRA Trust, London, 1992. A beautifully illustrated children's book telling of several Muslim travelers of the Middle Ages, including eight pages about Ibn Battuta.
   National Geographic Magazine Dec., 1991, "Ibn Battuta, Prince of Travelers" pp. 3 - 49. Well photographed, of course! A brief story of Ibn Battuta, and information and modern photographs of the places he visited.

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The ENHG   Newsletter…                           October, 2004– Issue #221
Summary of October ENHG Activities

Friday Outings:
Oct. 1 - Fossil Valley
Oct 8 - Khutwa gorge & oasis
Oct 15 - Jebel Hafeet tombs
Oct 22 - Kahl to Wadi Sharm drive
Oct 29 - Wadi Jazira

Tuesday Presentations:
Oct 12 - Al Ain National Museum tour
Oct. 26 - Iftar Dinner at Zayed Center for
Culture & Heritage

Extra outings:
Oct. 6 – bird outing
Oct 21 – Jebel Qatar hike
Oct. 21 – Orionids viewing – Wadi Shik
Oct 27 – moonlight hike on Jebel Qatar

Special Events:
Mike Gillett award

Special trips:
Oct. 6 & 7 - Sweihan Camel Races
Oct. 27 – 29 Ibri Weekend Getaway

Special Projects :
Insect Trapping
      Oct 4 – Fossil Valley
      Oct. 16 – Wadi Tarabat
      Oct 21 – Wadi Shik
      Oct 27 – Wadi Jazeera
Recycling
      Bins ordered –

Book review:
Travels with a Tangerine
(stories of Ibn Battutah)

Photo Competition cont…

PS Mounting enhances the appearance of your photo so it should be done well. If you don't know where to have this done in Al Ain, ask one of us.
PPS A piece of advice: if your camera has a 'date' function, disable it. A date running down the side of a photo can spoil an otherwise lovely picture and judges deal harshly with that sort of thing.
PPPS Last year’s winners may be viewed at http://www.enhg.org/photocomp/intro.htm.

 
 Watch for these upcoming events:

Tuesday, November 9 – Mark Beech presentation

Tuesday, November 23 – Annual General Meeting

Sunday, December 12 – National Clean-up Day

The Ibrahim Zakour Triple Crescent hikes begin


The farm at Sent
As we went to print, the passing of President His Highness Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was announced. We of the Emirates Natural History Group – Al Ain Chapter, wish to express our deep sympathy for those he leaves behind – and extend our grateful thanks for the country he has made us welcome in. May he reside forever in our hearts and memories, and most of all, with Allah, the Creator of all things.
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