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Camel Racing in Dubai - Exploring Cultural Roots

camel race in Dubai
Credit: Flickr / Lars Plougmann / CC BY-SA 2.0

Camel racing is an ancient sport which is encouraged by the country's ruling sheikhs. It was traditionally used to mark wedding celebrations and other important occasions. But after the oil boom in the early 1960s and the influx of foreign investment, the sheikhs worried whether camel racing would fade out of UAEs national heritage. To keep the ancient sporting traditions alive, camel racing became a lucrative way to attract people by awarding handsome cash prizes to the winner. Over time, the sport bore a prominent position among the traditional aspects of the region.

The Al Marmoum racetrack, where the races are held from October to March is designed with modern features including electronically chipped animals, certified camels specifying their age and breeds and doping tests to maintain ethical best practices. Though camels don't gallop as fast as horses, what sets them apart is the use of robot jockeys to manoeuvre the animal. In the early years of racing, children from poor countries were malnourished to make them lighter and used as jockeys. But since it was violence against children, the practice was stopped after the intervention of UNICEF and Qatar-based RAQBI Center. Thus, robot jockeys came into prominence built to mimic a child's weight and appearance.

The good old sport of camel racing is a big hit among tourists who are fascinated by the animal. Visit the Al Marmoum racetrack to enjoy the jostling gallop of camels heading towards the finish line.

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