After talking about it for months, we finally decided to check out a camel race. The main obstacle was how early the races occur – typically starting at 7am on Friday mornings. So despite some expletives uttered when the alarm went off, we got up early and headed to the track.
When we arrived, it was still dark so we couldn’t tell what was going on. But as the sun rose, we could see people leading camels around, cars lining up and people milling about. As we walked up to the main gate, the first race started. All of you have seen a horse race, so it may be easier if I describe some of the differences to a camel race:
– There are no actual humans riding the camels. Instead, a small robotic jockey sits on top of the camel and whips him from time to time to keep him going. The jockey is controlled by a remote control held by the owners.
– The track is enormous! They run in a giant oval, but it’s so big that you really can’t see the action after they go past the first turn. It takes a solid 15 minutes for them to run around the entire track.
– Because the track is so large and because the jockeys are remote controlled, owners and spectators drive in cars next to the camels. A camera crew rides along, too.
– Camels tend to be less cooperative than horses. We saw numerous occasions where camels decided to run before the start (the gate was just a light net fence), and even one camel who decided to run the opposite way. Even when human caretakers grab the reins in an attempt to turn them around, they were often drug several feet by the camels.
Here is a clip of the camels being led to the starting gate.
This clip shows the start of the race and the numerous owners and spectators following along in their cars. Notice the little robotic jockeys!
A look around the track…or at least the parts we could see without a car…