A tour driver picked us all up on a Saturday afternoon and headed out of town to the camel race track. Along the way, we passed the Emir's house. Maybe someday, we'll be invited for tea. Okay, probably not, but it was neat to catch a glimpse of his massive compound.
We arrived at the tracks to see several small groups of camels being led to the tracks for the races. Little packs of camels were everywhere! I never dreamed there would be so many camels!! Thousands and thousands of camels ... craziness!! The camels are herded into the starting gates (nothing sophisticated, just some poles and canvas), then the canvas is manually raised and the camels are off.
|Boys in front of camel prep area|
|Camels being led to races|
|On your marks ... Get Set ....|
There are no stands to sit and watch the races. The owners (and the fans) drive in their cars along side the camel track. They used to have small children ride the camels as jockeys, but after several children fell off camels and were stampeded and killed, they no longer allow human jockeys on the course. So now, the owners/trainers have a walkie talkie to communicate sounds and clicks to the camels wearing some kind of device with a speaker. There is also a radio controlled paddle to nudge the camel in the direction of the finish line.
|Owner communicating commands to camel through the walkie talkie while driving!! Look out on the roads!!!|
|Camels racing with cars following beside them. |
(These Land Cruisers are in the VIP lane and the one in front was the Emir's son)
The ruling family hosts the games on the weekends, 3 weekends per month from October - March. I don't know how many races per day, maybe a dozen or more. Camels are brought in from all over the middle east to race - Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, etc etc. The first 10 camels to finish in each race wins a brand new Toyota Landcruiser and 150,000 QAR (roughly $40,000). No wonder camels are brought in from all over to race! 10 camels per race times at least 12 races per day times 2 days per weekend times 3 weekends per month times a 6 month racing season ... that's A LOT of prizes!!! All from the government. No entry fee, no endorsements, no wagering, just gifts from the government to the top 10 camels in every race.
|End of the race track ...|
|These camels have finished their races for the day.|
|Not a great picture, but can you tell this guy is talking on his cell phone while riding a camel?!|