After spending 20 years flying planes around the world for the Air Force, Salem Al Afari decided to settle with 120 camels on a farm at the southern end of Al Ain.
When he was 19 Mr Al Afari, who is from a Bedouin family, had never been off the ground or even outside the UAE when he went on his first pilot training flight.
After the 90-minute trip Mr Al Afari was certain he would become a pilot.
He explained that applicants undertake comprehensive and rigorous health examinations before being accepted.
During his career he flew across the Arab world, the Far East and Spain.
However, a passion for flying and good health is not all it takes to become a pilot. “You have to be a leader and a decision maker, which is the most important thing”.
“When you are the captain of the plane, you are the leader of this entire group. Not everyone will succeed as a pilot even if he was perfectly educated for it.
“If he does not know how to make an instant decision, he will remain a co-pilot forever.”
Later, Mr Al Afari took the leadership skills he learnt in the air and transferred them to the camels he raises, breedsand coaches for racing.
Upon his retirement from the Air Force five years ago, he bought his first racing camel – a four-month-old female that was still feeding off its mother’s milk. It was worth Dh150,000.
He started a big farm and bought many camels for racing, and he took them to male camels for breeding. He was successful and people started to call him “the pilot of camel coaches”.
He travelled around the Arabian Gulf with his camels and won many races.
“The camels have taught me patience, endurance and tender treatment,” he said.
“Camels are also very sensitive and require the gentlest treatment, they adore its owner and are sensitive to his treatment. If you treat a camel well, it falls in love with you and if you hit it once, the minute it sees you it walks in the opposite direction and refuses to look at you.”
Two years ago, Mr Al Afari became an analyst for camel races on regional television channels.
Sensing that he still has more to give to the country, he decided to nominate himself for the recent Federal National Council elections.
“Sheikh Zayed used to say, a national should work and double the work.
“So I worked for a while, and I wanted to double the work through the council.”
Despite not winning a seat on the FNC, Mr Al Afari is happy with the results.
“I congratulate all the brothers who won,” he said.