I Love Adventures - Mongolia Eagle Festival: Steppes, Deserts & Nomads

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Mongolia Eagle Festival: Steppes, Deserts & Nomads

Rolling steppe make way to stark desert; small nomadic ger camps pepper this vast land where camels and goats are herded on horseback, fermented mare’s milk is the tipple of choice, sand dunes are known to ‘sing’ and the first intact dinosaur eggs were found. Genghis Khan went forth from here on horseback to conquer the biggest land empire in history and, to this day, Buddhist and Animist traditions mix. We travel through steppe, mountains and the Gobi Desert exploring the nature and culture of this fascinating, yet little known country before making our way to the far western reaches to visit the eagle festival, celebrating the fascinating past time of hunting with eagles and the strong connection the Mongolian people have with their animals and land. This departure of the Eagle Festival tour visits Terelj at the start of the trip.

Quick Facts

  • Culture
  • Festival Holidays
  • Natural Wonders
  • New Cultural Holidays

Whats Included

All accommodation, All listed activities, All transport, Tour leader (on guided trips), Some meals (details available on request)

What to expect

* 4 nights hotels, all en suite and 12 nights ger camp with shared facilities * Normally 4 to 16, plus local leader, Min age 16 yrs * Travel by 4WD, bus and internal flights * This departure visits Terelj NP at the start of the trip

Discover central Mongolia's wilderness and nomadic culture before heading to the far west to attend a celebration of traditional Eagle hunting in the Altai Mountains. 

Contact Us




Days : 17

Price : From AED 11,222*
*Per person twin sharing and excluding flights

Trip Style : Basic

Trip Type : Self guided

Physical Grading : 2

Trip Map

Itinerary Land Only

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Reviews

Title : Unique Mongolia
Summary : Fascinating and unique country. The Nadaam Festival was amazing, especially the opening ceremony. Lots of long road journeys.
Rating : 4

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : The Nadaam opening ceremony, seeing the Mongolian competitors and the crowd response during the rest of the games; seeing the wild takhi horses' seeing dinosaur bones in various musuems.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : He got us from place to place efficiently, and was always really pleasant. But he rarely gave us much information about plans for the day or the next few days, or about what we were seeing, or so we were often a bit confused about what was happening, and didn't get the most out of our time or our visits to particular places and sometimes missed things. At the Naadam festival he didn't tell us where we were heading, or where and when we should meet if we got separated in the huge crowds, and on one occasion he simply went off with part of the group without telling the rest of us - so we got really lost more than once, which was a bit unnerving and wasted precious time. On the road, he didn't ensure that the vehicles kept together - so when ours broke down we were with a driver who didn't speak English, totally alone in the Gobi. He also swapped activities around which made sense from a driving point of view, but meant that our hike around the Flaming Cliffs took place in a torrential downpour which made walking pretty treacherous - and as he simply left us there we weren't clear on where we were supposed to hike (by the time we worked it out it was too late to do it). The following day, when it wasn't raining, we went to the local town museum (which was good - but a better rainy day activity) and the market (which wasn't - tiny and nothing of interest). The 2 hikes (cliffs and canyon) need to be prioritised around the weather, as they are potential highlights, and could have been done on the same day if necessary, and the town omitted entirely (it's not in the itinerary anyway)
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : Do plenty of research about what you want to see in Ulaanbaatar as there quite a bit of time there and our guide didn't give us any information about what to see or where it might be located. Take a copy of the itinerary because the guide might not keep you posted on what is happening. Consider not taking the group flights - Air China seems to have delays routinely (we were delayed by about 6 hours on the way out and at no time did anyway give us a definitive answer about why we were delayed or when the flight might take off), and no guarantee you'll get your connection in Beijing - and if you miss it there is no-one to help as staff are thin on the ground, mostly don't speak English and frequently don't care and are rude and unhelpful. If you are delayed don't leave the allocated gate for more than a few minutes (unless you think it might have changed) as the flight might suddenly be called without warning and they won't wait or make an announcement. Lots of driving inc 2 full days driving (11 hours) so take lots of books or load up your mp3 player (etc). In July take a rainjacket and a brolly for rain - often too hot for the jacket, but sometimes it rained so persistently that it cooled down and a brolly wouldn't hack it. Hardly any bugs so insect repellent not necessary. In most ger camps you can wash clothes and they will be dry the next morning. There are only a few times where you need closed and grippy shoes - but then you do really need them. Food is generally quite good but often bland so consider taking some sort of hot sauce or spice. Take plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel for toilet stops. Take spare batteries for anything important as electricity can be limited in the gers so you can't rely on being able to recharge stuff overnight. Take a torch make sure it is easy to find in your packing.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : Bayangol Hotel in Ulaanbaatar was well located and comfortable - but Exodus needs to ensure that in summer rooms are in Block B, which has air con rooms, and not block A which doesn't. The first ger camp we stayed in had only 6 showers for 40 gers so there were major queues - which is not what you need when you are hot and dusty and jetlagged . Not sure if there is an alternative but worth considering. All the rest were fine.

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Title : Mongolia, Nadaam, Gobi. Great experience
Summary : Fantastic trip. Huge statues, more goats, sheep, horses and cows than you can imagine. A vastness that boggles the mind. The Gobi desert is to be experienced just to get an idea of the size of it. Living in ger camps is worthwhile too. You get to sample what nomadic life can be like. The local people were friendly and open to us visiting their ger homes, and we were offered goats cheese, fermented milk and simple vodka. It's rude to decline the offer! It's hard to pick one particular highlight but I think the Nadaam Festival comes out top.
Rating : 4

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : Witnessing the Nadaam Festival was a highlight. The two hour opening ceremony was terrific with displays depicting Mongolia's history. While we didn't understand the language, the display was clear. The men, women and children wore very ornate and colourful national dress and were happy for their photos to be taken. The newly elected President officially opened the festival. A goodly number of children released white doves at the start and balloons were realised at the end.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Our leader was a very pleasant man but perhaps due to us being in four vehicles, it was hard for information to be given regarding the country or the people. This would normally be expected when the group travels in one vehicle. That said, he tried to accommodate the wishes of group members, which did at times prove challenging. Not his fault though! Our tour leader arranged for two facilities to open when they ought to be closed which was very appreciated. One was a monetary and the other a museum.
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : The weather was much warmer than I had expected given I'd been checking weather updates prior to travel. A few days while we were in the Gobi were around 40 degrees and very windy indeed. Driving in the Gobi is very rough indeed as no tarred roads and dirt tracks the only routes. The ground is very hard and rough and car passengers get a lot of jostling around. A word of warning if you have back issues! Accommodation in the capital was fine but some of the ger camps didn't have hot water for showers and/or was restricted to certain times of the day, as was electric. This isn't a problem though as you expect such restrictions in rural areas. Meals were excellent throughout. Usually three course set lunch and dinner, with small portions. Mutton dishes were offered most often. The vegetarians were catered for too. Bottled water was provided at each meal and the guide gave water to each guest to use in their own water bottles. When driving long distances in the Gobi, toilet stops are infrequent due to simply not being a toilet to go to! You have to make do with a boulder or bush.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : If you get the chance to visit local shops and markets take it. You see what locals buy and can pick up some items you might not see in the capital. A wonderful experience driving around the vast wilderness of Mongolia and the Gobi. If you can visit when the Nadaam Festival is on you'll be in for a real treat. It was very hot and extremely busy with thousands of people milling around but worth it. You are given tickets with your seat numbers for the stadium but they are small spaces on plastic seats. Not the most comfortable but adequate. We were lucky as under the canopy for shade but the tour guide gave us all umbrellas for shade if needed. To sum up, just go and enjoy Mongolia.

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Title : Wonderful Mongolia
Summary : The Mongolian Adventure trip exceeded all my expectations. It took me back to a time when people were more interested in humanity than in possessions. I thought Mongolians would be similar to Chinese but they aren't. They are open and friendly. Ulaanbaatar is a pleasant city and we were there for the spectacular Nadaam Festival, The opening ceremony, the wrestling, archery and the horse race were great but the day before the public turned out in national dress! The desert, the gir camps and the nomadic families were experiences to be savoured.
Rating : 5

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : Walking around the main square with all the locals in traditional dress. The welcome from the nomadic families ran it a close second.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Terrific! Competent, flexible and a good laugh
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : Don't hesitate, it's fabulous. The food is good, the camps are comfortable and spotless.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : There is a lot of driving on rough tracks, but the scenery is worth the effort

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Title : A dream comes true
Summary : I'd wanted to see Mongolia and the Gobi Desert since hearing about them in Geography class when I was 18. I wanted to see the wide open spaces. The nothingness. The vastness of the country. And that's what I saw.
Rating : 4

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : Just driving through the countryside, bumping around in the jeep, having breaks in the middle of nowhere with a vast country stretching out for kilometres all around you. So different from crowded Europe. I also liked the wildlife in Vulture Gorge - picas and ground squirrels. The opening parade of Naadam Just walking around Ulaanbataar, seeing the people - especially during Naadam, when people dressed up in their nice clothes. My room-mate. She was great and I really enjoyed talking to her. I'd never set eyes on her before but it was a good match.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : I liked her very much. Dorjo tried to keep everyone happy, which was not an easy thing to do because four of the 16 people were very demanding. Maybe they expected a five-star luxury holiday. The rest of the people were easy-going and relaxed, just happy to be there and see the country. Dorjo is very pleasant, her English is fine. She likes to laugh. Naturally, when one gets excited or emotional, words are hard to find. She was always willing to explain things and it was clear how much she loved her country. I hope to stay in touch with her.
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : Don't expect five-star luxury. I certainly wasn't expecting it, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much better the accommodation was than I thought. I thought we'd be sleeping on the floor in tents, sharing them with local people. Instead, we got a tent between two people and the beds were in wooden 'boxes'. Apart from one camp, all the beds were very comfortable and I was surprised by how well I slept, even with the open part of the tent in the middle of the roof. (Normally, I keep all doors and windows shut when I sleep.) You don't go to Mongolian camps for the cuisine. Some people complained because we got starters consisting of tomato and cucumber often. What you have to keep in mind, though, is that very little grows there. Take a look out of the window when you're in the jeep. See how little grows. The camp cooks do their best with the little they have. I have to avoid gluten so I took extra fruit and nut mixes and some snack salami sausages just in case. However, the camp cooks were able to give me gluten-free food. Dorjo had a word with them when we arrived in a new camp. Remember that when you are in a ger camp that you are in the middle of nowhere. Do not expect entertainment. Do what people used to do in the past - make your own entertainment. Take books with your. Crosswords puzzle books. Talk to your fellow travellers. Just sit back and watch the sun go down and think how lucky you are to be able to be on holiday, not having to do anything. Just chill out. As for travel sickness, I took plenty of travel sickness chewing gum because I have problems with bus journeys in towns. Did I need any of them? Nope. Even though sitting in the jeeps was a case of "shake, rattle and roll". It's a completely different movement in the jeeps. Not once did I feel travel sick. I was also impressed by the washing and toilet facilities in the ger camps. I thought we'd be washing in buckets, but no.. there were brick and mortar buildings with showers, sinks and toilets. Some were better than others. If you go when everyone else goes, then you're not going to have lots of hot water. Me.. I waited until everyone had gone to the dining tent about 10 minutes early and rushed in for a quick shower.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : Just go with the flow. Don't complain that your beer is not cold in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Be thankful that you HAVE the beer in the first place. The holiday is called "Mongolian Adventure" and not "Mongolian 5-Star Luxury All-Inclusive Holiday".

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Title : Mongolian Adventure - August 2015
Summary : Interesting trip to a VAST country that makes you realise what "nothing" - landscape wise - really is .
Rating : 4

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : Amazing night skies with no light pollution . Endless horizons with no mand made structures
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Can only echo Caroline's comments , Dorjo needs to improve her leader/guide skills. Perfectly pleasant on a one to one basis but clearly most anxious to avoid any conflict whatosever , which means that placatory answers are given. That may solve immediate "issue" but leads to others when promised things dont occur , information isnt forthcoming , scheduled itinerary items are omitted / curtailed , general lack of information ( lunch stop , toilet stop / duration of any stop ) , general feeling of "not prepared " and unable/unwilling to actually go and find out the information .
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : When checking in for your flights ensure your luggage is checked ALL THE WAY through to Ulan Baator and not just Beijing. Take some spare clothes as hand luggage for overnight in Beijing off airport hotel. Do not expect an Air China rep to "assist " you with transfer to hotel , you have to fill in 72 hour temp visa form , then take transit train to luggage arrivals building ( hopefully if your bag checked through you wont have to collect luggage ) , leave customs and arrivals , go out into public arrivals hall. look for tiny Air China Hotel desk !!! Be prepared to argue that the room has been included and , if paid extra for single supplement , that you have a single room . Lots of driving in mini van , being bounced around for hours at a time so take some sweets for sharing . Also carry some hand gel and own toilet paper , be prepared to see more of your fellow travellers than you normally would ( at comfort stops) . Take own entertainment for evenings as very little to do after evening meal or those occasions when delivered back to ger camp at lunchtime with no activities availble in area. During the season its highly unlikley there will be any "single " Gers available and only then at FULL price ( not the hinted top up price in trip notes . small supplement ) . For the internal flight everyones luggage is weighed en-masse INCLUDING any day packs/rucksacks / hand luggage - and only 15KG allowance per person. So 6 people is 6 x 15 = 90 KG total . Any excess works out at about 1 USD per KG and has to be paid local currency - dont forget to ante up your share . Carry a small torch , for those night time/early morning start bathroom visits ( not every toilet block had lights on during night ) .
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : Driver Samdan was outstanding - always checking on his passengers and their comfort . Always willing to provide assistance , a hand up , fetching a stool to stand on etc.

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Title : Exciting Mongolian Adventure
Summary : Excellent trip. It was a nice mix of big city (Ulaanbaatar) and Naadam festival and countryside/desert. Well-organized and planned. Long distances travelled by Russian van, but the scenery was beautiful and very diverse, our driver Sandam made it fun, and we had a great group of people in our van. Fun staying in ger camps.
Rating : 5

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : Climbing the sand dunes in the desert. It was physically very challenging but also beautiful and exilarating.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Erdene (Eddie) was an excellent group leader. His English is excellent and he is very knowledgable. He was very attentive and accommodated everyone on the group, despite very different needs. He was well organized and advocated for the group when necessary. I'd highly recommend him!!
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : This trip involves lots of long drives over bumpy terrain. The scenery is beautiful and I found the drives quite relaxing. Staying in the ger camps was fun, and interesting. It was more luxurious than I expected, but having said that, there were times when there wasn't electricity, most times the water was cold, and at times water (shower and toilet) was not available. Realize though, that if you can't tolerate such drives and lack of water, or cold water, this trip is not for you (a number of people on my group couldn't, and all they did was complain). After all people, this is the desert!!

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Title : Mongolian Adventure including Nadaam festival
Summary : A great trip to a vast and interesting country.
Rating : 5

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : The remote ger camp where we were the only visitors, riding a horse for the first time, the unexpected horse race, the opening ceremony of the festival, seeing a couple of long eared hedgehogs.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : A nice lady but her English was quite poor and she wasn't very organised.
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : Take some sweets for sharing during the van journeys, mind your head on the ger doors and the van doors. Note that the luggage allowance for the internal flight is 15 Kg in total (i.e. checked plus carry-on) and that any excess has to be paid in local currency.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : The people are friendly and were as intrigued by us as we were by them. There is a good deal of building work taking place in Ulaan Baatar which is starting to mar the place. A previous review mentioned 50 seater coaches, we only encountered anything like this at the very last ger camp which is quite close to UB and appears to be popular with day trippers, the rest of the camps might have a couple of vans of other people at most.

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Title : Mongolian Adventure and Nadaam festival
Summary : This was a trip to Mongolia with the 3 day Nadaam festival slotted in towards the end of the trip. 11 of us toured round the country in two ex Russian military 4 x4 vehicles spending a lot of time off road, bouncing up and down. We stayed in a hotel in the capital and Ger camps in the country side.
Rating : 5

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : This was driving into the edge of the Gobi desert and finding that our drivers local village were having a horse race for 2 year old horses over 15KM the jockeys were all young boys and girls under the age of 10. Some of them were riding bare backed and a girl riding like this was second in the race. We then spent 2 nights in a remote Ger camp near to the village. We were the only Westerners present for the 2 days we were there. magic. Seeing a Cinereous vulture at close hand and watching it take off was like seeing a feathered Vulcan bomber on a bomb run. They are enormous (wing span up to 2.95M)
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Our group leader was a very likeable lady and immensely charming. However as it has been a year since she last led a trip and had not been able to practice her English language conversational skills it was difficult to understand her pronunciation of some words. This also meant that many questions posed to her went unanswered or were met with a smile and a blank look
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : Take a small thermarest, or similar, padded seat with you. A few small balloons to entertain the many (very, very many) small children you will encounter along the way. This helps to break the ice with their parents etc. and can lead to some very cute photographs. if you are interested in bird life, particularly Raptors take a small pair of binoculars as there is a lot to be seen.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : This is a great trip. The country is far greener than I expected. The mode of travel is what I expected from the other reviews (ie; cramped and bumpy) but the drivers we had were magnificent and got us to places I never thought possible. The Ger camps are comfortable (except the last one in Terelj national park) and the food is mostly good with more vegetables and salads than I expected. The people are lovely and anxious to help. They are also well organised and things work and happen pretty much on time. Things are changing in Mongolia and it is rapidly becoming more modern with extensive building work going on in the capital. Things there are changing rapidly, go now before it becomes too spoilt.

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Title : MONGOLIAN ADVENTURE
Summary : Mongolia is a country well worth a visit.   The scenery, the people, the customs and traditions combine well to make it a truly fascinating country.
Rating : 4

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : I enjoyed the sweeping vistas of the steppes dotted with Gers and herds of fine horses.   It was good to see that customs and traditions are being maintained.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Our leader was helpful and sociable.  His English was very good (one of his many languages).  We were able to visit a couple of sites that were not on the itinerary because of his suggestions.
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : It is not a physically strenous trip as there are few opportunities for walks; however, the long journeys on really bumpy and dusty roads are bone jarring and tiring.   The food can be challenging especially if you are a non meat eater.   Be prepared to eat a lot of carbs and chocolate bars (for desserts!).   The picnics were not well done.     If thinking of arriving early I'd pick a hotel in the centre of town.  Our tour hotel in UB was  inconveniently located a long walk from the centre and its facilities were poor.   
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : Don't rely on the trip notes for an accurate or an up to date picture of Mongolia or the trip.    It is true that Mongolia does not get a lot of tourists yet, but many companies follow the same itinerary.   As a result you do get clusters of tourists at popular sites.   Also, some of the Ger camps are big, noisy and crowded so don't be surprised to see 50 seater tour buses disgorge large tour groups.   The Russian 4wds are well suited to the task  but are not built for comfort.    We were a small group so space was not an issue, but a big group might find the long road journeys rather tight.    Also, the local company failed to confirm our group's accommodation at two places forcing us to squeeze into fewer rooms.   We managed to do it because we were a small group.   Lastly, if you are thinking of last minute shopping in UB, it might very well come to that.   We were booked on the late afternoon flight back to UB and not the morning flight as indicated in the trip notes.   That meant we were stranded in a ger camp for a whole day with nothing to do. Consequently, our last day was a very hectic one and the fact that Exodus did not secure a day room at the hotel in UB when the group left at midnight was a bit cheap.    

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Title : MONGOLIAN ADVENTURE
Summary : Definitely go to Mongolia-even better go during Nadaam.
Rating : 4

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Question : What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Answer : The hospitality of the nomadic people we dropped in on to visit and trying their camel's cheese, mare's milk, goat and vodka.Encounters with the interesting characters who gather for the Nadaam in Ulaanbaatar.Travelling through vast and varied landscapesCrazy journey to get to the horse racing-never experienced anything like this before.
Question : What did you think of your group leader?
Answer : Erdene was a lovely person and also a good guide.He had a lot knowledge though sometimes he needed a little prompting to give it
Question : Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Answer : Be prepared for any sort of weatherSome of the views in the Nadaam stadium are a bit distant, much better for the archery and ankle bone shootingAlthough it didn't seem unsafe,probably wise not to carry unnecessary amounts of cash/valuables around UB at festival time.
Question : Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer : Trip should also definitely include the huge Chinggi's Khan statue (photos towards start of Lonely Planet guide) as it is only a short deviation from the Terelj National Park. This is a fairly new attraction and we all chipped in for the extra fuel to get here which was well worth it.

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Start Date - End DateAvailabilityPrice
*Per person twin sharing and excluding flights
2018-08-13 - 2018-08-256 AED 11,222
2018-09-10 - 2018-09-228 AED 11,222
2018-09-23 - 2018-10-090 AED 15,960
2018-09-23 - 2018-10-091 AED 15,960
2019-07-01 - 2019-07-158 AED 14,312
2019-07-08 - 2019-07-228 AED 14,312
2019-07-22 - 2019-08-038 AED 11,840
2019-08-12 - 2019-08-248 AED 11,840
2019-09-22 - 2019-10-088 AED 16,990