Last night we caravanned through the desert to attend a tent party hosted by HE Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Dubai Crown Prince, UAE Minister of Defense). It was an amazing night. It's truly magical here...maybe the night air, the silky sand. Even ordinary events feel special - but this was no ordinary event. A few tents set up in the middle of the sand dunes. Lights leading through the dunes from where we parked the car to the tents, and scattered around the tents - beautiful shadows. Carpets and pillows were spread over the sand, exquisite food - two tents set up just for the chefs to cook steaks, lobster, lamb chops, shiskibab, etc. Plus tables covered with salads, breads, Indian food, Arabic food, fruits, deserts... we will all be riding in the HeavyWeight division when we return!
A live band played while we lounged on the carpets and pillows and ate and ate and ate. We ate, danced, ate some more. Arabic music - rhythmic, haunting. Several belly dancers circling the bonfire kept us transfixed. How do they do that....?
Sheik Mohammed appeared after we had all relaxed and settled in. There was quite a bit of excitement and flurry - a caravan of vehicles - headlights visible across the dunes. When I finally caught sight of the Sheik he was dressed in a black robe and wearing a black cowboy hat (a gift from Darolyn and Cowboy). It was surprising, certainly not what I expected, but rather charming. He made a point of greeting each rider individually, and then joined in the party. Dancing and laughing with the rest... I had never met Sheik Mohammed before, and was delightfully impressed. A very kind, charming and charismatic man. I still find it amazing that a person in his position (Minister of Defense in the most wealthy Arab country) is also an active Endurance rider, and can be so 'human' and enjoy his fellow riders at such an earthy level. And he can dance! An amazing night.
The day before, all of the riders and some of the hosts and organizers were bused about an hour from the village for 'lunch'. Another beautiful spot in the dunes, tents, oriental carpets, palm trees, and some of the best chefs in the country. Wine, caviar, all types of foods. There were a couple tents set up just for after-lunch relaxing. We shed our shoes, relaxed on the carpets and pillows, exhanged sighs and smoked the Hubbly Bubbly pipes. (huge water cooled pipes, some sort of aromatic herb - not a tobacco - actually quite delightful!)
So the name of the game is to invite riders from around the world, turn them into total marshmallows with excessively abundant and irresistable food, keep them up night after night with parties and social events, and then see if they can still ride a horse by race day!
All of this sounds a bit excessive - and it is - but it is such a treat! We are being treated so well, and anything that we want for the horses is available. The staff is great fun, but also works very very hard.
Bottom line: Take care of the horse, on race day do your best for your horse, for the USA, for all the people taking care of things back home - and appreciate this experience!! It is a gift.