Karak: the unofficial drink of the Emirates :)

I love karak... I love that my students love karak... I love that the best karak comes from the cheapest shops... (2 dhs in Abu Dhabi, sometimes cheaper in the Northern Emirates) - but the absolute TOP BEST MOST WONDERFUL karak is made by a person who loves karak!

I have had karak in 6 of the 7 Emirates and in countless homes... one term we had karak each morning delivered from Yadoti to class :) (I did have mine no sugar at least)

Karak, for those who do not know, is an Emirati twist on chai tea (hihihihi I know that chai means tea, but I mean spiced tea with milk, that was an inside joke with someone). When you go to an Emirati home you are first offered a small cup of gawa and then a larger cup of karak... there are two fancy thermoses on the go all day, everyday.

Yesterday, at the falcon training, I drank karak made by Mohamed's cousin Ahmed - a true master who took the job of making it seriously and it felt like art how he did it... so the following photos will take you through how to make it... and you don't need a carpet in the desert to experience it... just relax on the sofa and enjoy the caffeine kick.

At first I didn't understand what Ahmed was doing... then I realized he was setting up the stove to make karak!

They bring this kit... wonderfully organised... to make karak when and where needed :)

11 teabags (yellow label lipton) with the tags removed... 

Wait for the water to boil (with 2 gawa cups of sugar already in it) with the lid off (ignore Dr. Connie very politely when she says that it would boil faster with the lid on) - watching the pot boil actually is pleasurable I know!

Boil everything together and add 1 small can of evaporated milk with cardamon in it (or boil real green cardamon if you have it) until it reaches the deep colour seen above...
 Then enjoy :) At home it is usually served in small glass tea cups - and I always accept the second cup... not even sure if I should etiquette wise, but I do!


Falcon training in Abu Dhabi

This first video is the mini-helicopter taking off...

The second video is Mohamed's bird taking off to hunt the bait!

The first "rain day" of my 4.5 years in Abu Dhabi (3 pm classes and beyond were cancelled due to rain and impending storms) and a wonderful invitation by a student to watch he and his friends train their falcons resulted in this photo heavy blog post.

Last month at the falcon azba I learned a lot... and today I learned even more and saw things "in action"... and it was marvelous :)

VoilĂ  the falcon training adventure (5 minutes from university!)

The helicopter that is used to lift the bait into the air for the falcon to track, chase and catch
Falah - she has just started training and needs to be tied with a rope

Taking off the mask....

Feeding her a little...

And calling her name so she gets used to hearing it...

They go for the protein rich parts after the blood...

Two Abu Dhabi young men training their falcons...

Ready for the next bird! The birds need to be trained each day...

The remote control for the helicopter

My student's falcon...

This falcon caught the live bait... and then did what she is trained to do, but she can't eat too much...
because she will need to train again

So the "bait" was covered with a sac and she was given a smaller something to eat

My student Mohamed and his falcon

Mohamed prepares the bait for his bird (not yet named) - the bait comes frozen in boxes of 35 birds from England... talk about a successful SME with a nice market!

Ready to fly!!!!

Off it goes...

Relaxing with gawa and karak after training... (this is a MASTER karak maker!)

Me and Mohamed's falcon

That is me in the background uploading photos to facebook :)

Photo taken by a budding photographer!

Taking photos for social media :)


The Most Awesome Azba in Al Ain: innovation, sustainability and profit all in one!

Before the Falcon Azba we went to a farm - the farm of Abdullah's cousin - and it was a farm unlike any I had been too.... this will be a very photo intensive post as everywhere we turned there was another innovative idea or invention to absorb... above all it was CLEAN, and it didn't smell (although there were so many animals) and the animals were the healthiest and cleanest ones I think I have ever seen on any farm anywhere.

I am itching to have the time to do an academic case study... this farm is a model in sustainability and ingenuity... OK, enough gushing and let the photos tell our story :)

We left at the start of class time (no other classes were missed!)

On the road to Al Ain


Arriving at the azba, as always we are greeted with Emirati hospitality, which means water, gawa and dates

First day with my phone! I am now embedded in the phone culture here!

Yasser and Abdullah explaining the day and the vision, strategy, objectives and tactics of the farm... they had spent the previous Friday with Abdullah's cousins and had so many notes and information - super proud of them!
There are four parts to the farm - birds, animals, vegetables and "relaxing" - here are some newly hatched laying chickens

This is a newly hatched bird that are raised to sell as birds - Emiratis seem to love birds and every azba I have visited has a huge bird house...

Bird hospital where sick birds are taken care of

Bird breeding with "married" birds raising babies together! (there are some mixed breeding experiments going on too)
Mom and Dad protecting their egg!

Clean, happy and healthy chickens!

Super interesting... this mom and dad are "common" birds - and by switching eggs laid on the same day by "rare" birds, the common birds will raise the rare babies...
tons of birds, some common, some rare one third for sale :)

The water pump and filter he invented himself (Abdullah's cousin LOVES the internet) - he invented it because sooooo many people try to rip him off... and it cost him 1/4 what the sales people quoted and works 100x better!

There are 14 bought greenhouses...

300 plants per row - we saw tomatoes and hot peppers

Everyone was super impressed!

The Jordanian engineer who has been working at the farm for 11 years... he was respectful, informative and SMART (m'ashallah)

Irrigation system 
Abdullah answering one of my 100+ questions!

In the winter greenhouse designed and built by Abdullah's cousins and his farm workers

Pregnant camel!

Yes gentlemen, I am not just "book" smart :) I could survive in another occupation if I had to!

The fruits of my labour :)

Expensive sheep - still lots left after Eid to make babies for next year!

the daddy to a lot of the babies on the farm!
more lovely sheep!

The small desalinator... he desalinates his own water for the farm and uses the sweet water for the plants and animals and the salty water for the date trees (something I learned, date trees can use salty water!)

There are two desalinators

Bigger tomato plants, the smell was wonderful!

Showing Nawwaf that you need to trim the "suckers" so more plant energy goes to the fruit... yes, the engineer told Abdullah he was shocked I knew that :) 

Most of the class... yes, I look like a proud Mom I know!!!!

This was simply an amazing farm... and one of the greatest things I hears was when Abdullah told me about asking his cousin about the vision of his farm... 

"Cousin, will you ever reach your vision to have the most innovative farm using sustainable methods and growing and raising food for the UAE?"

"No, I will never attain my vision, but it is my greatest joy working to reach it"

Of course, I talk about this in class... but to hear it from someone living and see it in action is the greatest lesson my students can learn. Of course I did a little fist pump when I heard and might have said "I told you so".... but the lesson was learned by all.

A million thanks from me to all of you who planned, organised, kept us on schedule and made the day a truly memorable one!