Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘United Arab Emirates

How great to see this fabulous review of Amanda’s first adventure by Carol Balawyder. Carol and her sweet dog, Bau have a wonderful blog.

Carol Balawyder

I have been following Darlene Foster’s blogfor sometime now and had often told myself that I would want to read one of her books.

Lately, I’d been emersed in a lot of adult literary fiction and so this past weekend, I was looking for something to read which wouldn’t be too demanding on my exhausted brain cells. A book that a middle school child could handle.

So far, Darlene has eight Amanda adventure books, each one set in different countries: Spain, Holland, England, Arabia and Malta or in different states or provinces: Alberta, New Mexico or The Danube.

I had debated whether I wanted to read one of the adventures set in a place I had already visited but finally settled on the exotic, the foreign, somewhere I will likely never visit: The United Arab Emirates or as the locals refer to it as either the UAE or simply…

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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.

If you would like to know what sparked my dreams as a child, read my guest post at March of Time Books, the new blog site of my dear English blogging friend Barbara Fisher.

What sparks a child’s dreams?

Guest post by Darlene Foster dreamer of dreams, teller of tales.

When I was little, my dear grandmother gave me a colouring book filled with pictures of children from around the world dressed in traditional garments. I loved that book and while colouring each page, dreamt of visiting those fascinating places. Growing up on a farm in the Canadian prairies, we didn’t venture far.

Read the rest of the article here  Pop over to Barbara´s blog and you might see me in a sombrero!

What sparked your dreams as a child? I would love to know.


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/





Dishing up adventure

Tsawwassen resident Darlene Foster serves up an Arabian dish in theme with her new novel for youth, ‘Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask.’
Kristine Salzmann photo
Published: October 07, 2010 12:00 PM

A Tsawwassen author’s first published book takes young readers on an adventure to the United Arab Emirates.

It’s not a country often talked about nor a setting you’d expect in a novel about a 12-year-old girl, but Darlene Foster was enthralled by the locale when she traveled there to visit a friend 10 years ago.

“It was so fascinating and exciting. My girlfriend said I was just like a child because I was so enthusiastic.”

She wanted to translate that enthusiasm into an adventure story for young readers. Foster, an employment counsellor, created Amanda Ross, a 12-year-old who wishes for adventure and travel on her birthday and receives a plane ticket to the UAE where an aunt and uncle live.

All four of Foster’s grandchildren already have copies of Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask and she says they loved it, even her young grandson despite the bright pink cover.

Many of the adventures Amanda experiences are ones Foster did during her trip, such as attend a camel race, ride a camel, and watch the sun set over the dunes.

Foster says she also loved the food there. After returning from the UAE, she picked up Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa by Habeeb Salloum. It’s a cookbook she dips into weekly for recipes such as this rice flavoured with cardamom.

Both her readers and publishing company, ireadiwrite, are looking for Amanda to continue her travels. Foster received an email from a young girl who asked, “Where is Amanda going next, and what colour will it be?”

Amanda will continue to have adventures, says Foster.

Next, her protagonist will set off in search of excitement in Spain (and the cover will be red). Third in the series may be a trip to England. Both are places Foster has traveled.

“Amanda isn’t going anywhere without me,” she says.

Foster will hold a book signing at Black Bond Books (5251 Ladner Trunk Rd.) on Oct. 16, 1 to 3 p.m. and at the Guildford Town Centre in Surrey on Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. For more about the author and her writing, visit darlenefoster.ca.

Rice flavoured with cardamom


4 Tbsp. butter

1 ½ cups slivered almonds

1 cup rice, rinsed

¼ cup raisins or chopped dates

2 ½ cups water

½ teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

salt to taste

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley


Melt butter in a frying pan and sauté almonds until they begin to brown

Add rice and stir fry for another three minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients, except parsley, and bring to a boil

Cover and cook over medium low heat for 25 minutes

Turn off heat and allow to steam for 30 minutes

Stir, place on serving platter and garnish with parsley

Serves six.

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© Darlene Foster and darlenefoster.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Darlene Foster and darlenefoster.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.