Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘camels

Every year for three days at the beginning of February, the city of Orihuela, Spain transforms itself into a medieval town complete with market stalls, soldiers, street entertainers and food cooked over open flames. The Moors and the Christians are both represented as at one time they lived side by side in this area. This year a friend and I took the twenty-minute bus ride to the city to partake in this fun event. Here are a few pictures. Enjoy!

Our first stop was at a Moorish tea tent, to partake in perfect mint tea and delicious baklava. We even got to keep the tea glass as a souvenier.

I got to pet a camel! Those of you who have read Amanda in Arabia, know how much I love camels.

We watched artisans at work, such as this potter

And this sculpture

And this baker making buns in a medieval oven!

Displays of sturdy ovenware for sale

and colourful graters, perfect for grating garlic, ginger, tomatoes and more

Street entertainers were spotted everywhere.

Medieval musicians

and dancers wound their way through the streets as in days of old.

Even a troll

and other scary woodland creatures

Adults dressed up in their finery

And children got to be a king for a day!

How would you like to buy a suit of armour?

We stopped for lunch at a charming little restaurant frequented by the entertainers!

There were plenty of food stalls with fresh produce

waiting to be cooked over the hot coals, resulting in paella and other mouthwatering dishes

We decided not to have soup with balls.

A handsome Bedouin poses for us by his tent

To catch the spirit of the day, watch the video I took while there. You might feel like you have gone back in time like I did.

A writer friend of mine, Christa Polkinhorn, recently posted a picture tour of her latest book, The Italian Sister, which I thought was a great idea. Check out her blog, and her wonderful books that take place in interesting places. christa-polkinhorn.blogspot.com

This prompted me to think about how my pictures have inspired me while writing my Amanda books. Visiting the United Arab Emirates was a dream come true for me as well as for Amanda. So here are some photos that inspired my first book, Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask

The perfume flask

The perfume flask Amanda buys in a shop called Aladdin´s Treasures

The desert

The very desert in the United Arab Emirates where Amanda gets lost.

With friends in the mountains

Amanda also visits the rugged UAE mountains with friends

Amanda couldn´t get over the silly goats in the trees!

Amanda can´t get over the silly goats in the trees!

She was intrigued by the painted doors

She is intrigued by the painted doors and gates

and she fell in love with the camels, especially Ali Baba

and she fell in love with the camels, especially Ali Baba!

What have I been up to lately?



As you can see, I have been very busy finishing the next Amanda travel adventure book.



What started out to be a rainy, windy day, turned into an amazing experience at a Medieval Market. The historic town of Orihuela, about thirty minutes from where we live, was all decked out medieval style featuring Arabian and European cultures that have lived here over the centuries.  Numerous stalls of artisans, bakers, butchers, fishmongers, drummers, acrobats, camels, ponies and much more were scattered throughout the town. A feast for all senses, we were greeted by colourful tents, the smells of exotic spices, teas, paellas, fresh baked bread and pastries, and goat milk soap. The vendors and entertainers dressed in medieval garb adding to the ambiance. Camel rides, merry-go-rounds, puppet shows and wooden swords for the children; it was truly a family event with all ages taking in the festivities. I hope you enjoy the pictures and can imagine the fun we had. The sun came out as well!

Making fresh potato chips

Making fresh potato chips


Preparing a huge paella


Giant sized pastries

Giant sized pastries

Creating a sculpture

Creating a sculpture


Colourful charcaters


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Entertainment in the streets

Entertainment in the streets

wood fired ovens for delicious breads sold at the market

wood fired ovens for delicious breads made at the market


A huge variety of spices

A huge variety of spices

For the kids

For the kids

Amazing cheese selection

Amazing cheese selection

Camel rides for the children

Camel rides for the children


Arabic coffee tent

Arabic coffee tent

We strolled aimlessly around the various tents and stalls, tempted by the food for offer until we stopped for a tea and delicious tapas. Then we wandered some more. The pictures really don´t do it justice but I hope you get the atmosphere of the event. It really was a step back in time and I was so happy I took the time to visit and savour.

It wouldn´t be a medieval fair without a witch and her cauldon

It wouldn´t be a medieval fair without a witch and her cauldon

I recently blogged about a wonderful visit I made to Tomsett Elementary School in Richmond, BC.  You can read about it here.
A few weeks later I was invited back to the school by the teacher to view the storyboards the students had made for Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask that lined the hallways. I was blown away by the creativity of these grade 4 -5 students. Here are some pictures of the work put into this project. There were 26 of them and they were all very good. I am just showing you a sample.


DSC03343 DSC03351




They all included heartwarming and encouraging letters






I particularly love the camel pictures



And this one depicting a mosque


I am astounded by the thought and creativity put into these storyboards and touched by the letters.  These students have inspired me to keep writing!

What inspires you to keep writing, or to do anything creative?

You may or may not know this, but I have a fascination with camels.  After riding a camel in the United Arab Emirates, attending a camel race and learning more about these amazing creatures, I decided to include camels in my first novel, Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask. Ali Baba and Sheba have become many of the childrens’ favourite characters in the book.  Over at A Hopeful Sign, Catherine Sundher posted a wonderful article on camels and has given me permission to repost it on my blog.  I think you will enjoy it!

Preserving Ancient Traditions in Modern Times by Catherine Sundher


Each year, the United Arab Emirates celebrates one of the largest beauty pageants in the world — for camels! During the festival, this normally sleepy western region comes alive. It’s an incredible sight when over 20,000 dromedaries (single-humped camels) from as far away as Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, saunter across rust-coloured dunes alongside caravans of kin, keepers and tribe members. Many traveled weeks, just to attend this popular 10-day celebration where ties are tightened and heritage is celebrated.

Only a handful of women are among the thousands who regularly attend the Al Dhafra Festival. Nonetheless, I was given a warm royal welcome and directed to elaborate gold armchairs lining the stands. Spectators are treated to copious amounts of Arabic coffee and tea, while watching camels hoping to stand out from the rest, sporting fancy tassels and elaborate embroidery around their humps. Judges in crisp white kandoras have the arduous task of deciding which of these beauties who’ve been lavished with generous amounts of money and attention, are true champions.

Stakes were high with 155 brand new 4×4’s and $11 million CAD in cash up for grabs and equally important, status and prestige—everyone wants to be number one. Like a lottery, winning equals instant wealth so strict rules and regulations must be in place, eliminating contestants tempted to enhance their chances of winning, using extreme measures. The main thoroughfare called “Million Street” lives up to its name and reputation with the amount of money that changes hands here each day. Every evening this busy stretch of sand hums with excitement and anticipation, as numerous deals are made and camels are sold back and forth.

As night descended, steady streams of trucks were still making their way along roads of packed sand; filling water tanks, delivering camel feed and supplying wood for the hundreds of campfires beginning to dot the horizon. Elaborate campsites looking more like fortresses with hundreds of lights and national flags, stood alongside humble Bedouin tents. Old friends and new, dashed back and forth between camps discussing events of the day, performing the age-old tradition of reciting poetry and socializing well into the night—the animals united them! As I observed countless 4×4’s navigating the dark “roadless” dunes, I began to understand the source for their notorious assertive driving habits. The desert’s their playground; they came from it, love it, respect it and take every opportunity to return to it. It’s their heritage.


Camels are held in very high esteem among the Bedouin people as throughout history, they’ve played a vital role in their lives. Although somewhat intimidated by their size, they were very gentle and all too often, overly-friendly! Once I discovered they had no intentions whatsoever of biting or spitting, it was very easy warming up to their beautiful eyes with mile long lashes. They’re a very gregarious creature that hates being separated from one another. When babies (who remain very close to their mothers for several years) were taken away for judging, their desperate cries filled the stands until the event concluded and once again they could cuddle with their moms.

It wasn’t uncommon to see camels wearing muzzles, as they often mistake plastic for food. Left behind by strong winds and way too many reckless campers, once digested, it turns into a calcified mass blocking their intestines. Some of these masses have been as large as 128 pounds which all too often, result in long and painful deaths.

I had no idea what to expect when making the trek to this festival, but what I came away with was a fascination and respect for the deep-rooted cultural heritage of the very hospitable Bedouin people. This festival ensures that age-old traditions among Sheiks and tribes continue to carry on, reaching future generations. It was a great day and just a taste of what I experienced at the Camel Grand Prix!

Catherine Sundher, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Catherine is a West Coast girl who feels fortunate to call Victoria, British Columbia (Canada) as her “home-base”. She’s happily married to an educator and has two grown and independent sons. Curious by nature and with a perpetual desire for new challenges, Catherine has moved from the “Travel Industry to Design” with numerous stops along the way. As Gilbert Chesterson wrote, “Why Not” is a slogan for an interesting life.

Amanda Ross had a wonderful adventure in the United Arab Emirates. She will never forget the camel race, shopping at the souq, swimming in the Persian Gulf and riding a camel. When she came back to Canada and told her friends about her travels, some of them didn’t believe her but that was OK. She made a scrap book with the pictures she took and of the souvenirs she collected. She even had a picture of her and Ali Baba, the camel she treasured.

She kept in touch with Leah, the friend she had made when she was in the UAE, by email and Facebook. When Leah asked her to come to Spain to spend a holiday with her, Amanda jumped at the chance. She did extra chores at home, babysat and took on a paper route to save up money for the trip. Spain was wonderful and she got to see and do a lot. She visited Madrid, explored a mountain town with houses hanging on the edge of cliffs, stayed overnight in an old, spooky monastery, took part in a tomato fight and discovered the sights of Barcelona.

There was only one problem; a young girl, looking amazingly like a girl in a famous painting, kept showing up wherever Amanda and Leah happened to be.


Following her was an evil horse dealer who seemed determined to make life miserable for everyone. Could Amanda keep this sweet young girl, and her beloved pony, safe without bringing harm to herself and Leah?
Follow the adventures of Amanda at http://www.centralavenuepublishing.com/Books/Amanda%20in%20Spain/





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