Desert Survival Skills

Students from Abu Dhabi Homeschoolers Association took a field trip out to the Khatim Desert, Abu Dhabi, to learn about desert survival skills with Mr Mike Metzger.

It was a cool evening, welcoming the arrival of the UAE winter. Excitement filled the air, as the learners arrived. Under the guidance of our expert naturalist teacher, we started off with learning how to make a shelter using date palm branches, rope and bags of sand. It was an important lesson in teamwork and patience, as we tied the delicate branches together with rope.Once our shelter was ready, we moved on to explore the dunes in search of wild edible plants. We now have a new appreciation of the richness of the desert after learning which edible plants we could rely on for survival. For example, the commonly found desert sedge, which an untrained eye could mistake as just a bush, is actually an important source of water for desert wildlife. Sedges were also once used to make sails, ropes, baskets and mats. The desert sage is another plant, identified by its greyish-turquoise, rough wrinkly leaves, that has medicinal qualities. You could boil the leaves and add it to soups and tea. The desert mustard is another herb commonly found and traditionally used for sore throats and cold symptoms. We also discovered the miswak, an important plant. The roots are used for oral hygiene; brushing teeth, tongue and gums and the young leaves are good for sore throats and headaches. We also learnt how to make traditional bread using our own underground oven. We made the oven in a firepit using hot coal and ashes, and the dough using only two ingredients; whole wheat flour and milk. The result was a surprisingly flavourful bread, hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.

We are grateful for our trip to the desert, we learned a lot of beneficial, practical knowledge.

By Hafsa Mohamed and Amina Parrot

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