It’s not a fairy-tale about salukis, it’s just only my trip to Arabian Peninsula, which allow me to see salukis in quite different colors. But about those magical Arabian Hounds I will write more soon!
Sometimes we set out on a journey without any expectations. Just like in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s book on emigration Za chlebem. However, deep down inside lingers a tiny hope that a One Thousand and One Nights adventure is waiting just around the corner. I have learnt to say my dreams out loud, hoping for them to come true.
I said the last dream so loud that other airbus passengers looked at me, surprised. And I still don’t know whether Allah was close to the place where I found myself at that time, but if I had had the world’s most amazing and elegant dresses in my suitcase, I would certainly have been able to don them during that trip.
Since sighthounds appeared in my life, a lot has changed. Since Salukis appeared in my life, this a lot has been filled with the most intensive colours.
It was impossible to be standing on the Arab soil and not to be thinking about ethereal and agile Salukis, which are said to have emerged from desert sand. A sand storm seems to be the best illustration of the nature of these outstanding Arabian Hounds.
Just like grains of sand floating in the wind the Salukis gets under your skin. They are immaterial. They are everywhere, but impossible to hold. They will elude you but stay close only to entice you and get you addicted. Whoever has experienced this unique sand storm will forever be in love with this dog and will be able to comprehend the nature of the Saluki, the dog whose eyes are always seeking freedom, desert and pursuit.
I admit I am lucky, but I am helping my luck as much as I can. Nothing will happen by itself. So in my free time I am surfing the unchartered waters of the internet, looking for breedings, kennels and places where Salukis should appear. I keep coming back to the site Saluki of Arabia. Yet all my emails are returned. ERROR.
Dubai. The Ritz-Carlton.
The driver pulls over at the main entrance, a concierge opens the door and greets us with a smile and a slight nod. The same warm welcome on the other side of the car. We get out, other cars with guests follow. We are heading towards Sunken Garden. I go very slowly, taking in every single moment I am inside. These are the interiors that would make Quasimodo look good. The place is filled with elegance and chic. The Arabs call it the quality of life and flock in here to get away from the hectic business world and to seize a moment of tranquility, enjoying the beauty of the place. Quality, indeed. If you want to rest in the very centre of Dubai, Sunken Garden will meet your every need, even if you need outside air-conditioning. High hotel walls feature a waterfall and palm trees, scattered all over the surface, making me feel like I am in the middle of an oasis.
The men are discussing a variety of topics, while I am sipping my pinot grigio, pretending to be listening. But my mind is wondering. I tuck my legs under me, squinting, my hands are feeling the air, hoping to feel the elusive shape of a Saluki.
– Agata, what about Salukis? We could make a few phone calls – Fadi’s words seem to be coming from behind a glass wall. The magic word Saluki brings me back. I feel fucking amazing. Fadi is calling people, looking for contacts. Another phone call. Then another. And nothing. Silence. No one seem to know anything. Finally, we decide to leave a trace and send a text message to a phone number we found on one of the websites. We are still enjoying our lazy hours at the Ritz, but the hope is slowly fading away.
We are surrounded by smells of shisha smoked by people sitting around us. Next to me a very tipsy Indian strokes the hand of a Swedish blonde with legs from here to heaven. A group of young people are having a lively discussion under the waterfall. A waitress is wobbling in her mini skirt, shoes probably too big, but heels are a must. Yet all this is somehow charming. I can also see an alienated idiot, out of touch with reality. The only word that can bring her back is Saluki.
– Agata! – Fadi is nudging my arm, because my thoughts are currently in the desert. -He answered!
God did not make me much of a painter. No one will guess whether the lines I scribbled represent a sighthound or a cow. Some may even see a beach house in the tangle of wild lines. What God did give me in abundance, though, is imagination. That I have plenty. To travel to the desert while sipping wine at the Ritz is a piece of cake for me.
– Call any time you want – Fadi enunciates every word from the text message. He makes the call, he talks in a mixture of Arabic and English. I can hardly breathe, trying to read from his face. Things seem to be going just fine. Just fine? Does the word really go with the Ritz Carlton hotel and this whole quality life idea? Not so much, no.
It seems like ages before Fadi finishes the phone call. – We’ll make an appointment in the next couple days. Hamad is in Abu Dhabi today – there is a ring of triumph in Fadi’s voice.
I still find it hard to believe, yet I am busy with making a list of all questions I am dying to ask. How Salukis live, how they hunt, what they eat, how long they live, how they are trained, smooth or feathered. I need to write all of it down and put the questions in order. That’s what pros do. Drat! – another text message beeps. Hamad asks for my details and answers with a very laconic text: 8 pm. Arabian Court Royal Mirage.
I say goodbye to the Ritz only to find myself in another fairytale, taken directly out of the One Thousand and One Nights world. The colours of the tents put up in a hotel patio are dancing with shades and intensive smells in carefully choreographed patterns among a myriad of tiny lights, which climb the palm trees and evoke an image of a Bedouin oasis. Just like Arab condiments they are sweet, with a hint of mystery. Round copper tables, beautiful colourful pillows and fluffy carpets catch your feet and try to stop you from going inside the magnificent oasis. Water seems to be everywhere, its gentle murmur soothes the senses and inspires imagination. This is too much for me. Hamad greets me with a friendly smile and invites to me to sit down in an armchair next to him. A Polish-American couple was also invited, I’m sure it was to make us more comfortable. The woman lives in Dubai and her name is Agata, just like me. Just like me she has just adopted a pair of Saluki, and just like me she has just fallen head over heels in love with them. The atmosphere is sparkling, the Polish, Arabic and English languages are mingling, and the spirit of the Saluki seem to be permeating the whole event. We are watching movies and photos. We are firing away questions. We are debunking myths about the Saluki that have been created to make the breed popular across Europe. Or rather Hamad is doing most of the debunking. Our jaws drop when we hear that it is quite usual for an Arab Saluki to live to 18 or 21 years of age. We are squealing with joy, boasting our dogs, covering every possible topic. The meeting is full of colour and joy. And it is sooooo hot. That’s why we schedule our next meeting for winter, when temperatures drop down and we will be able to enjoy Salukis in the desert and see how they live in Arabia.
And here I am back home straight from a fairytale. I’m not sure: was it just a dream or did it really happen? Yet here it is, an email from Hamad in my mailbox. So not a dream after all. From my suitcase I take out a tiny book about the Salukis and a pile of photos I was given.
The Saluki is another breed that can take you to a different dimension. Sighthounds are so perfect that almost unreal. Salukis are the epitome of perfection. Salukis, just like borzois, are meant to be taken with all the history and culture of the nation and place they come from.
Fadi and Hamad adorned the Saluki in the most amazing outfit, an outfit that has spoken to me through all my senses. I hug my two small Salukis sleeping next to me. They missed me so much. I look at them and I see so much more than I did before my trip.
People full of passion attract one another. It does not matter whether they live just round the corner or a thousand kilometers apart. Eerie magic connects their energies so that they can talk about what is at the bottom of their heart, even if the meeting takes place at the end of the world.
I am enjoying the Salukis more and more, just like you would relish the top-quality and the best dates. In the same way that I enjoy emails from Anna, the same Anna who brought them into my life and my heart.
And I dream of going back to savour the feeling one more time.
I hug Rahma, I put my hand on Zosia’s head and I say my wish out loud. Let it come true.
Hamad Ghanem – is a breeder, founder of the Saluki of Arabia club, international judge, chairmen of the Arabian Saluki Beauty Contests & Traditional Races and most of all an avid lover of the breed. He was the person who one day initiated a meeting of those who love these amazing Persians and he was the person who debunked all European myths about them only to make the dogs even more magnificent and amazing.
Hamad – there’s no words to say thank you!
Fadi, once again thank you so much for your and your family’s hospitality. The wonderful dinner prepared by your mother could easily surpass any meal from “Come dine with me”. It would make an ideal addition to the Ritz menu. Thank you.
all photos from Hamad’s courtesy