The oldest sport in the UAE, camel racing is the ‘sport of sheikhs’ with the desert animal being put to the test at Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack weekly.
But now Dubai is about to take that once step further, with the introduction of a camel marathon in December.
The occasion will fall on the third of the month, the day after the 44th UAE National Day, and will see the hump-backed creatures move over 50km. Unlike many of the races we see in the emirate, this marathon – where 1000 people are expected to take part - is an opportunity to for owners to get on the backs of their camels as opposed to jockeys.
“We see the cultural, sports and traditional activities we hold as a means of reviving the customs and practices of our ancestors. Camels were a key means of livelihood for the people of the Arabian Peninsula,” Hamdan Bin Mohammad Heritage Centre (HHC) CEO Abdullah Hamdan Bin Dalmuk said. “They taught people patience and endurance and even had songs and poems written about them. Hence we at [HHC] are keen to introduce new ways to try and inspire citizens to breed and care for camels.”
If the marathon in collaboration with Dubai Camel Racing Club proves successful, it could happen all over again in 2016 and perhaps years to come.
He added that it was happening “under the directives of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai” in order to help preserve the country’s heritage.
It will be tough time for those competing for luxury vehicles and cash prizes, not only during and after the marathon but before too.
Ali Saeed Bin Sarud, Director-General, Dubai Camel Racing Club, explained that the owners will have to be smart about training the camels and make sure to not underestimate their competitors.
“Training and conditioning would play a big role in this marathon, along with the rider’s tactics in distributing the camel’s effort and in pacing the camel over the long distance,” he said.
“How well the rider understands and assesses his competitors, the racetrack and climatic conditions would also prove decisive.”