The Camel Racing season starts mid October and ends mid April here in Dubai. If you are in the area, it's worth taking a trek ouf of the city to witness this event at the Marmoon Camel Race Track off the Al Ain Road (Exit 37). What's best, it's completely free. You won't find many tourists watching. Actually, on the few times we have brought friends and family, there were only a handful.
In the past, camels were ridden by child jockeys but they were replaced by robots with a motorized remote controlled whipping device attached to them. In response to human rights allegations in the industry, the United Arab Emirates banned underaged labour in 2002. When I first witnessed these races in 2001, the jockeys weighed less than 45 kg and were under 16 years of age, mostly children from Bangladesh or India.
Racing camels are al matialiyat, a brown breed, indigenous to the United Arab Emirates, we were told by one of men preparing the camels before the race. Others are al sudaniyat, a larger, white, camel origniating from Sudan or a are the cross-breed between the two.
Racing camels go through a selective breeding process and have the value and prestige of a racehorse. You will be surprised to know that although betting is illegal, winning camels receive expensive prizes including luxury cars.
The camels waiting for the race to begin.
As the camels race down the track, a convoy of Toyota Landcruisers follow the animals. Inside the cars, men operate the remote controls for the robots, racing commentary in Arabic blaring over the loudspeaker! You can either watch on a giant screen or closer to the track. We wanted to stand where we could see the camels racing over the finish line. As they approach, you can hear the loud thunder of hooves. When camels run they look graceful, all legs, galloping along the sandy track.
Dubai Camel Racing Marmoon, off Al Ain Road Exit 37
Timings: 7-9.30 and 14.00-15.30
Entry : free