It’s the last day of Qasr Al Hosn Festival. You can’t wait for a long day at the office to end, so you can get out and join everybody and anybody at the most anticipated cultural celebration of the year. You’re hardly managing to contain your excitement for a promising evening at the first stone building erected in Abu Dhabi in 1791 to defend the only water source in the area, the watchtower that manifested into the palace residence of the ruler of Abu Dhabi island at the time, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Thiyab Al Nahyan.
You have long accepted that you can be pretty culturally nerdy that way…
Your inbox is overflowing with unread emails at 5pm. On the other hand, Social media is flooded with enticing reports and photos from the event. You’ve got to get out there, now, and let those people know what you have to say about it all…
Also, you’ve promised to accompany your friend to the place, and you can’t afford to ditch her for work, once again. In fact, you should leave right away and attempt to have a real life. Yet, you don’t detach from your desk until you get the call:
Friend: are you on your way?
You: (trying not to tumble down face first while running down the stairs) of course! I said i’d leave by 5 didn’t I? Minutes later, you’re grateful for the reassuring sound of your car’s engine starting.
You call your friend back to warn her that you’ll need a couple extra minutes to swing by the house and change out of your work heels and abaya, into something you don’t mind distorting in the sandy ground of the festival.
You: been there, done that (add nervous chuckle).
Friend: don’t even think of brushing your hair, or wearing perfume, or touching up your make up, or whatever. Traffic is getting really bad in the city.
You mentally admit that sounds like you, and scratch those plans out. At home, it literally takes you 90 seconds to look the part, and another 5 seconds to grab your DSLR camera bag. The poor thing has been collecting dust in the far corner of your living room for…a while. Well, here comes the perfect opportunity to put it to a very good use again…
You maneuver your way through the city’s evening traffic. You search 40 minutes for a parking. You refuse to lose hope.
You decide against carrying your giant day tote, you stuff your cash and lip balm into your camera bag randomly. While at it, it occurs to you to check your camera’s battery, the last time you charged it was months ago. You turn it on, surprise surprise, battery fully charged, but the LCD screen is blinking another devastating fact at you, no SD cards. None to be found in your camera bag’s side pockets.
You fight the urge to scream and blurt out all the dreadful curses rushing down from your shrinking brain to your ziplocked mouth. You fail miserably. You do what you have to do behind the tinted windows of your car. You pray no one outside noticed it shaking from side to side.
Repeatedly calling yourself dumb and stupid partially reinstates your sanity. You manage to cut it out right before hot tears pour down your face. You drag your hurt and disappointment along a 2km walk of shame. You risk your life joining crowds that don’t seem to understand why the little man in the traffic light is flashing red. You make it to the festival’s gate in one piece.
At the queue to buy an entry ticket, you take a moment to recompose. You talk yourself out of strangling your friend the minute you see her for rushing you earlier. Inside, she meets you with her usual kind smile. You cast out your vengeful demons.
You conclude this one is all on you…
You’ve never seen so many locals gathered in one place until today. True fact!
Children engineering sand forts near a large makeshift pond built to resemble costal heritage. Others rummaging through every piece of display they’re not supposed to touch.
Now is a good moment for you to snap back into festival mood.
At the traditional food corner you tail a line of hundreds waiting to buy all sorts of Emirati delicacies. You bring a ball of sweet Lugaimat topped with honey and sesame to the low wooden table your friend settled at. You take turns with her stuffing your faces with a piece after piece of warm happiness, punctuated by spoonfuls of moist Beef Tharid.
Everything feels better on a full stomach.
A one year old named Shaikha dressed in a cute little traditional dress is dancing on top of your table. You’re bewitched by her big gleeful brown eyes and forthcoming attitude. She takes your welcoming smile for an invitation to go for your food. Your friend playfully tells her off, few times.
You’re watching her not take no for an answer, daring to let her imagination shape her next plan of attack, and you’re thinking, I wish I was little Shaikha. But you’re big Shaikha now. Your heart tells you that big Shaikha is not a quitter neither, she is in fact really good at wrapping herself in the present moment, and making the best of her current circumstances.
You decide to work with what you have. You reach for your iPhone, your go-to plan B that has been there to capture some of the most memorable moments of your life. You’re a bit gutted each time a big camera flash is fired at the direction you’re pointing your tiny phone camera.
You’re learning a harsh lesson.
The good news is, you now have one full year to prepare for the next Qasr Al Hosn Festival. You hope it’s not going to take you that long to find your SD cards. Or the rest of your expensive camera equipment for that matter!