The Camel Marathon Is the UAE's Best Endurance Race
It seems like every few weeks there's a major sporting event in the UAE. From tough mudders to marathons to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this country is no stranger to extreme sports.
Though camel racing has deep roots in Emirati tradition, it's not the first thing you think of when you picture sporting in the UAE--but you should.
For the third year in a row, Dubai's Camel Marathon returned to the city for National Day, and it's the first race of its kind in the world.
Breeders and racers from all over the country train their camels for months for the event, which sees the camels racing for 25km.
Camel races typically only last for 7-10km, and with robotic jockeys as opposed to humans, so the Camel Marathon is grueling for both the human jockeys and the camels alike.
The camels that compete in the marathon are not the fastest-- but rather more seasoned racers who are able to complete the distance. The key, though, is having the camel cross the finish line with the jockey still on his back.
"Some camels they don't achieve and some camels finish alone and the rider is not there," Mohammed Abdullah, the director of corporate support at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Heritage Centre said, speaking to The National.
"The key factor here is experience," said Mr Abdullah. "When we start the race we see lots of camels running fast and it's like a trick. When others run fast, your camel also wants to runs behind because it wants to compete. Experts hold their camel back."
Many jockeys, he pointed out, fall off the camels just minutes into the race-- it's difficult for a camel to maintain a steady gait, and so riders are often thrown off.
For those who do cross the finish line, it's worth the strenuous race: the winner takes home AED70,000, a Nissan Patrol, and an Emirati sword.
Click through to see the beauty of this oft-forgotten national sport!