By: Kyle Doman
Sixteen days away from home, one opportunity, one experience, all for the love of Scouting, travel and country.
The 7th International Scout Gathering 2016 Sharjah, U.A.E, involved more than 110 scouts from over ninety National Scout Organisations (NSOs). It was a total of ten days packed with activities, tours and lectures, of which the objectives were to strengthen the ties of friendship and brotherhood across the globe and to explain the role of the Islamic culture in enhancing coexistence and tolerance among people.
After approximately twenty-eight hours of tedious travel from Trinidad to London to Dubai, I breathed a sigh of relief as I was greeted by warm smiles and “As-salamu alaykuma” by the gentlemen who picked me up at the airport. They took me to Sharjah Scout Mission, Sharjah, where I finally got to rest.
I occupied a tent with two scouts, one from Guyana and the other from the Dominican Republic. Accommodation was comfortable; a bed, pillow and quilt were provided to cater for the extremely cold temperature at night. During the first few days, we became acquainted with each other, broke the ice and settled in.
Among the first of the activities was a briefing and introduction to the team that made the gathering possible, along with presentations on Sharjah tourism, energy conservation and Scouting. Representatives from each NSO also had to make presentations on their national culture. I became aware of countries I had never heard of and accumulated a vast amount of knowledge. Some people already knew about Trinidad and Tobago, and the few that did not are now aware of the entire Caribbean and South America.
We did a lot of sightseeing during the day; visiting museums, an international light festival, a birds of prey center, an indoor aquarium, and a safari, along with tours of Dubai and some other areas in Sharjah. I vividly remember walking through the indoor aquarium and feeling like I was walking through the sea, seeing fishes and all sorts of underwater creatures swimming around me.
As a person who appreciates modern architecture, my mind was blown away by the height and design of some of their buildings. One can only imagine the kind of structural engineering that it took to construct these buildings. The sight of the tallest building in the world, ‘the Burj Khalifa’, was spectacular with its outdoor water fountains dancing with the timing of the music.
Another highlight of my trip was driving in the desert. It was breathtaking, holding on to the safety bars while the driver sped through, up and down the sand, sliding at some points in the land cruisers. One of the climaxes of my experience was when we stopped atop a high peak to admire the beauty of the Arabian sun as it set that day.
We were also taken to one oaf the beaches where the water was crystal clear. Though beautiful, it was also extremely cold, so I avoided it. But I didn’t hesitate to ride on the back of a camel, with its extremely soft and fluffy hair. The ride was different to anything I had ever experienced. I likened it to in-between that of a horse and a donkey.
The grand opening ceremony was held two days before the closing ceremony, which was new to me. That morning, we stood in full uniform at our respective flag poles and on the command, raised our country’s flags. In the evening, we had the honor of shaking hands with the governor of Sharjah, H.E. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qassimi.
After the meet and greet, we all rushed down to our campsite, where we showcased some gadgets and designs that we created over the preceding days. Thereafter we engaged in some camp fire activities and sang some songs. In that area, no one could compare with the dominating African contingent.
They saved the international evening for last, on the day of the closing ceremony. Here, the Trinidad and Tobago booth was a hit! Thanks to the Ministry of Tourism I had a variety of items to give away, including maps, magazines, post cards, souvenirs, pens and brochures all placed in a tourism bag. I also carried over some local delicacies: sugar cake, coconut fudge, tamarind balls, toolum and some bottles of pepper nuts, which everyone genuinely enjoyed.
Initially, I was somewhat nervous to travel all the way to Dubai by myself but the council of my family, friends and fellow scouts made it possible. Being able to create friendships and bonds with likeminded and ambitious individuals from other regions of the world made this Scouting experience, by far, one of the best and it shall never leave my memory.