Watch: Emiratis, expats unite over love for camel racing on UAE National Day

The event was created to encourage people to learn more about the importance of the animal in local culture, says top official

Photo courtesy: Anil Kumar
Photo courtesy: Anil Kumar

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Fri 2 Dec 2022, 9:40 PM

Last updated: Fri 2 Dec 2022, 10:10 PM

Camel racing enthusiasts in cars and four-wheel drives honked and drove on either side of the racetrack as they cheered on their favourite camels to the finish line at the preliminary National Day marathon at Dubai Camel Racing Club’s Al Marmoom Race Track.

Organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Centre (HHC), the race saw expat and Emirati men and women partaking of the traditional camel race across various categories. The 6km race for Emirati jockeys was divided into two categories according to age while the 1500m race was for expat jockeys.

“This is the third year that we are organising the race,” said Abdullah Hamdan bin Dalmook, CEO of HHC.

“When we started the race, it was a way of encouraging people all over the UAE to learn more about the importance of camels in the local culture. However, in the last three years we have been pleasantly surprised by how many people have come forward to participate.”

Jockeying to win

For Meriam Sehrewerdi, it was a chance encounter that led her down the route of jockeying. “I happened to come across a poster calling for those interested in the camel trek 2021,” she said. “I signed up for it and got chosen last December. I then realised I enjoy riding camels so much that I then started competing.”

The American of Iraqi and Syrian origin, who placed first in the Expat Camel Trek category of 2,000m, said she encourages other women to try out for camel racing. “I think it is an amazing sport and I always ask other women to try it out,” she said. “Everyone should give it a try at least once in their lifetime.”

Camel racing is a popular traditional sport that has gained traction among expats living in the UAE in recent times. Abdullah, a camel jockey in the male category, said he was not able to perform as well as he wanted to. “I came in fifth today,” he said.

“I wanted to place in the top three, but it didn’t happen. Hopefully, next time I can do better.”

According to Abdulla, diet and physical activity is an integral part of his training. “I spend at least an hour every day riding the camels for about 10km,” he said. “I am also very careful about my diet. The lighter you are, the better you can perform on a camel. So, I watch what I eat very closely.”

For many at the event, it was the first time witnessing a camel race. Pascal from France, who has been in the UAE for less than a year, said he enjoyed watching the race.

“I have never seen a camel race before. I came here with my wife because I wanted to learn more about the UAE culture for National Day. Tomorrow, we are headed to the museum in Bur Dubai to learn more about the history of the country. I am really enjoying myself,” he said.

Meanwhile student Greta, attending the event with her parents Christine and Olaf, was cheering on her teacher who was one of the jockeys.

“I have been living her for three years, but this is the first time I've watched a camel race. It was a very new experience for me. My teacher placed second, so I was very happy. I cheered so much that my voice is a bit hoarse now,” said Greta.


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