Saturday, December 14, 2013

Camel Racing

I received an invitation from a Qatari friend to attend some camel races out at Shahanniya. I still don't know exactly when they hold races (it doesn't seem to be something commonly advertised in English) so it was great when I received the invitation as then I knew I would be there when there were some races to watch.

So we headed to the starting line, where camels were awaiting medical inspections before heading up to the start line.

Everyone then hopped into SUVs to follow the camels when they start racing.

And we were off!

It was a lot of traffic but there were camels there, I swear! :)

The little boxes on the camels' backs were "robot jockeys". Instead of human jockeys the camels have boxes that allow someone to press a button to whip the camel. Human jockeys were banned in the GCC years ago due to outcry from human-rights groups (the jockeys were children) so everyone moved to using the robots.

For some reason I wasn't too worried about getting into an accident despite all the vehicles zooming around. That said, there was one minor accident that day when a fender fell off of a Land Cruiser and the guy behind him ran it over.

There were too many vehicles to get past to see the winner cross the finish line but it was easy to see from what nation the camel was from as the owner and his friends would immediately start celebrating (in this instance the winner was a camel from Oman).

The top three camels would then have a mixture of henna and saffron rubbed on their heads as sort of a victory tribute.

Raising a racing camel is expensive so these races offer great prizes, for example these Land Cruisers.

Time for another race.

And we’re off!

Crowds would yell and cheer as the camels were heading to the finish line.

It was a cool experience. If I can find out exactly where you can get the racing times I'll post it here but if you go on Friday or Saturday you should be able to at least see some camels being trained or doing practice races (except maybe in summer).

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