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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Day at the Races

by The Media Office

© Al Habtoor Group
© Al Habtoor Group
© Al Habtoor Group
© Al Habtoor Group

While the thoroughbred horses from the Maktoum family’s Godolphin stables usually steal the racing industry kudos, not to mention prize money and headlines, there is another form of racing with prizes of more than a million dirhams on offer. The recently concluded camel season prize money distribution again broke the magic million barrier, with owners from throughout Gulf region sharing in the bonanza. The racing camels have been known to fetch at least the equivalent of their equine counterparts at sale, changing hands for as much as Dhs10 million. The sport’s origins can be traced back hundreds of years to its roots which lie in bedouin folk tradition. More recently the sport has been rejuvenated through the joint efforts of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Vice President and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Both have gone to great lengths to revive and preserve the heritage of traditional Arab sports. At the home of UAE camel racing, Nad Al Sheba racetrack, one of these initiatives is the annual camel marathon run over 43 kilometers. Ridden by young jockeys weighing about 40 kilograms, the 800 kg camels cover the distance in a winning time of about two hours and one minute. Interestingly, the world’s top human marathon runners cover the same distance in about two and a quarter hours. The camel racing season runs parallel to the horse racing season, avoiding the extreme temperatures of the Gulf summer. Races are run over distances of two, three and four kilometers. Visitors to the track are advised to arrive early as the race day usually starts at about 8 am. While the timing may not suit the late sleeper, the softer lighting provides ideal conditions for the amateur and professional photographer alike.

 

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