Camel racing has been an important part of Arabian culture for centuries. The roots of camel racing date back to the 7th century and the early Islamic period. There have been two types of racing: those that were part of social celebrations and those known as “competition races”. Nowadays, the heritage revival within Gulf societies has also brought the camel racing to the level of national industry. Camel racing is very popular in UAE and Qatar and whoever visits any of these two countries must not fail to visit camel racetracks and see the races.
1. The camel racing season lasts from October until early April every year and the races usually take place early on Friday and Saturday mornings.
2. The entrance to the races is usually free and the usage of camera is generally prohibited in the racetracks.
3. In Qatar, there is a famous Al Shahaniya Camel Racetrack (one hour drive from Doha), while in the UAE, there are 15 camel racetracks spread across the country, with Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack being the biggest in Dubai and Al Wathba Camel Racetrack being the biggest in Abu Dhabi.
4. Until recently, very young kids, as young as 4 year old, were used as jockeys. However, due to safety risks involved, this practice got banned and nowadays, the robot jockeys are used instead.
5. Robot jockeys are electronic devices which weigh about 5 kilos and cost approximately 5500 USD. They are of a toddler size and are clothed in a colorful racing silk. They can be commanded to use the whip antenna or to pull on the reins, or through the built-in speaker, the operator can give verbal commands to the camel.
6. The operators ride in pick-up trucks on a road alongside the racetrack during the race and from there control the robot jockeys and give verbal commands to the camels.
7. Robot jockey operators do ride the camels during the training.
8. The camels can run at the speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.
9. Sheikhs usually buy the camels that win the race and the price can be as high as 10000 USD, so winning the race can be a big pay-off for the camel owner.
10. The length of the race is determined by the age of the camel, younger the camel, shorter the race. 2-4 year old camels take part in 4 to 5 km races, 5 to 6 year old race for 7 to 8 km, while camels older than, 6 race for 10 km.