Throwback Thursday: Camel Races in the UAE

Throwback Thursday, is a weekly reminiscent movement where you re-post past events or photos. They can be from years ago or from just a few days ago. Its a great way to look back fondly on some of your favourite memories…… 

One of these memorable highlights was when I attended the spectacular camel races in the UAE while living there in 2008. Camels are known as the ships of the desert and has played a vital role in the UAE for thousands of years, influencing every aspect of daily life and today a special breed of camels are used for racing!

Camel Races in the UAE
Attending the Camel Races in the UAE

Armed with directions and a bottle of water each we got a taxi and headed out into the what felt like the middle of nowhere. After about an hour of driving through this vast, empty dessert and not seeing anything more exciting than a sand dune, we came upon the racing stadium. We paid the taxi driver and as he drove off we realised that we never arranged transport back to Al Ain. Realising that there was no use in worrying about that now we followed the crowd towards the main tent.

The huge Arabian tent was set up at the finishing line of these races. We sat down and watched an Emirate band performing before the races were about to start. We joinedthe locals in cheering on the camels as they galloped around this specially made track, and marvelled at how these seemingly ungainly creatures could reach such high speeds.

After watching two races from the tent we headed off to the starting point which was a lot more interesting and exciting. We got really up close to the camels and the jockeys. Watching as the handlers prepared the jockeys and camels for the next race.

At the starting point the handlers are all trying to position their camels and keep them from charging off. Once the net lifts ( which doubles as the gates) , the race is on, and so is an experience like no other! We watched as these camels flooded the track, legs flying in all directions, making their way as fast as they can down the track. Trainers follow in 4X4s, yelling for their jockeys to pick up the pace and be the first across the finish line.

Children are important in the UAE so, while young boys used to be allowed to be jockeys, a national law now prohibits boys under the age of 15 and under 45 kilos from being in the races. In the past these young children were under fed to keep them thin and light and a lot of these young jockeys died under the feet of camels.

We got a ride with one of these owners back to tent, so we got to follow the race from start to finish in true Emirate style. The excitement is contagious and something you must see to believe.  There were no taxis when the races ended, but luckily we got lift on a tourist bus to Abu Dhabi from where we could catch another bus back to Al Ain.

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