Field Trip to Jabeeb 14 October 2003

Field Trip to Jabeeb 14 October 2003

A convoy of 11 vehicles made its way to Jabeeb Friday morning to visit the camel training area, an Iron Age archaeological site, and the 'rich' dunes. With the additional of Johanna from Dubai, we had an even dozen trucks enjoy a little sand driving early in the season.

The camel trainers were busy, with small clutches of camels being led to and from the compounds. Though small boys are no longer permitted to ride as jockeys in sanctioned races in the UAE, there were still many astride the relatively monstrous camels. Many of the camels, being trained for races during this busy racing season, were wearing blankets for conditioning.

It is a steady parade of camels along a very well-worn track that runs parallel to the new paved road. The original straight-line racetrack is being dismantled and the expectation is that a new track will be installed.

The first stop at Jabeeb was to one of the camel tack shops where the blankets, muzzles and other paraphernalia associated with training and husbandry is on sale. Some of the trainers were quick to invite members to nearby pens where camels were resting or feeding.

As we drove towards the open desert, we stopped for another photography opportunity at a spot where unspoilt dunes provide an ideal backdrop for photos. While some hurried off to get that perfect shot of camels, others inspected the many tracks and burrows of various animals that made this part of the desert home. Mike Gillett and others interested in beetles, bugs and flying creatures, found specimens in the rotting wood under a tree.

Johanna managed to catch a very healthy example of a Diplometopon zarudnyii), one of the more unusual creatures in the desert. It has no legs, no obvious head or tail, yet it is related to the lizards we see scurrying over dunes. (The creature is mentioned in Bish Brown's article on "snakes" here.)

There were also several healthy desert gourd plants, the Citrullus colocynthis . The fruit, which resembles a round cucumber, is filled with small brown seeds. Often parrots will collect the dried fruit, take them up into a tree and begin chopping away at the fruit, dropping the fruit to split the covering. Fresh fruit is sometimes eaten by the gerbils and gerboa. It is sometimes thought to be poisonous to humans but, in fact, is more accurately likely to lead to diarrhea, offsetting any advantage that might be made by eating the wet interior. (There is a write up on the plant here.)

The convoy moved on past the new reservoir tank, part of the water pipeline bringing desalinated water to Al Ain from the east coast. At the farms at the end of the hard track, the trucks switched to four-wheel drive and headed out across the sand to an Iron Age site added to the national registry just a couple of years ago. Not far away, Dr. Walid discovered an underground falaj system a few years ago, suggesting substantial habitation at one time.

The Iron Age site is a large flat area among the dunes, just off the track. The site is littered with pottery; only one bead has been found here. When a representative sample of the pottery was shown to Rob Carter, an expert on pottery in the region, Dr. Carter said what was remarkable was that the pottery was all of the same period. Normally a site includes pottery from earlier or later periods, as well as the potsherds from the main period of occupation.

With the morning temperatures rising, the group headed across the valley to the dunes on the opposite side, an area where many items have been found in the past. (See this page for images of some of the things recovered.)

Despite the heat, most headed off into the dunes in search of artifacts from the past.

In the dunes, the most remarkable new feature was a set of tracks evidently made by gazelle. One dead sand gazelle was found in the immediate area a few years ago by Al Ain recording officer Peter Cunningham.

Members returned with an assortment of pottery, some Iron Age, most Islamic.

The most interesting find of the day was a perfect stone bead found by Kevin.

Bob Reimer had a busy day, taking several hundred photographs including those below. Among the insects Bob photographed was an ant believed to be Cataglyphis niger (Desert Runner), "which is described as being easily identified in Walker and Pittaway as it holds its compressed abdomen in a reflex position over the thorax," Brigitte Howarth explained. "The fly belongs to the family Asilidae, and I think probably the genus Apoclea," she added. "They are fascinating insects and were definitely represented in high numbers in the desert. In addition, Bob's photos of them are stunning and incredibly detailed."

For more information on asilids, please click here.

Photographs below by Ian Wilson, Bob Reimer.


Photo by Ian


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