“It don’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning’s winning.” – The Fast and the Furious.
The first time I rode a camel, I cajoled my younger sister to join me before we left a fall festival in the United States. Even though I was nervous, I figured it was potentially a once in a lifetime experience, so why not? That may of been my first camel ride, but it definitely wasn’t my last. Since moving to Dubai, I have experienced a lot of once in a lifetime experiences including riding camels and even watching them race!
Along with our cousin, Rocket and I visited Al Marmoom Racetrack to take part in a centuries old Emirati tradition: camel racing. Although it has been updated throughout the years, Dubai’s oldest sport is still rich in heritage. It is a fun experience for tourists and residents, and surprisingly free! During racing season, September to April, races take place every Friday and Saturday from 7-9am and 3-5pm, although it is best to call and confirm as the schedule may change (See contact information below).
Camels are grouped together by their age (about 20 at a time), and the race distance spans 4 km to 6 km long. As the netted gate is lifted, the camels take off while handlers call out to help direct them forward. Nevertheless a few choose to buck the system and run contrary to their opponents.
As the camels race around the track, reaching top speeds of up to 40 mph (slightly slower than horses), trainers (and sometimes owners) in white SUVs track them on either side controlling small robot jockeys. Yes you read that correctly….ROBOTS!
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the racetrack watching from the stands, the starting gate, and the finish line. Bring a pair of binoculars if you want to watch the camels run around the track. Each race lasts about 5 minutes. As we talked to staff working as photographers, videographers, and camel caretakers we learned a lot about the industry and I even got a chance to sit on another camel! My advice, hold tight when it stands up and lays down as it can be quite jarring!
If you want to watch this traditional Emirati Sport, visit http://www.dcrc.ae/
Location: Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, Dubai-Al Ain Road
Call: International: +971 4 832 6526
Local: 04 832 6526
Schedule: Season: September – April
Times: 7-9am, 3-5pm