Camel racing - traditional sport of the Arabs 

          The silhouette of a camel walking through the golden sands into the setting orange red sun." The foremost visual your perceive while imagining the Arab lands. Camels have a paramount presence in the Arab homes , its a a part of their age old tradition and culture, thus you can hardly find an Arab who doesn't own or rear a camel.

These days camels are no longer raised for their meat and milk as they used to be- instead they have become a way to make money and even pave the way to make you a millionaire. Camel racing and camel beauty contests are the 2 prominent of these camel buck making events.

Camel racing is extremely popular in the Emirates. Its one of the oldest traditional sports which was originally staged in an informal setting, at weddings or special festivals, but now customized tracks have been built throughout the country.

Weekly fairs and local camel races are held in these custom build tracks  with the aim of

choosing the best ones to participate in the major competitions - such as the Gulf Racing Cup, Dubai's annual Camel Racing Festival, and the Shahanya Camel Races in Qatar. 

Recently the  Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed al-Nahyan camel festival took place at the Shweihan racecourse in al-Ain on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. A similar kind of festival known as the Janadriyah will be hosted by Saudi. The festival will  feature a mega camel race,where around 600 camels of different breeds and genres from across the GCC countries will take part.

These race camels really get treated well. The average cost of keeping a camel here would be 4,000-5,000 Dirhams ($1,000-1,300) per month. Definitely an expensive game , but the Prize money for winning camels can shoot up more than 2 milllion. Now you know why they put a fortune in it.

Till 2002, children from India, Pakistan and Sudan- as young as 2 or 3 years old were used  as riders in these races.

Many of them would fall during the course and get irrevocably injured. As this was brutal and ruthless from a human rights perspective, the practise was stopped. ( UAE being the first to do it ) Later technology played its cards and Robot Jockeys replaced the children.

Camels ridden by mechanical robot jockeys are a vivid sight. These jockeys are controlled using remotes by owners following them in cars. Adults are still allowed to race camels.

Camel racing has become a top event preferred by tourists visiting the Emirates. Its popularity is on the raise around the world and the use of  indigenous robot jockeys has boosted its vogue. Thus probably we may see camels racing in the backdrop of the Alphs and the snow laiden European lands. Surprisingly, the cold climate of the west is even better for the camels ad a hot and dry environment drain their energy. Camel races in Europe? Who knows it just might catch on.                               Shruthi  Nair

 

image image image image image image image image image image
Magazine beyond boundaries