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Letters from the Oman Trail – The track

Letters from the Oman Trail – The track

I’m passing near a camel track. Seeing a race is high on my wish list, hopefully this fall. For now, and all throughout summer, it’s training season for the young camels. Twice a day, as the sun rises and sets, the future champs are taken for a stroll around the track. Camel racing is big business, just as horse racing, and owners are wiling to spend large amount of money to get the next winner. There is no legal betting in the UAE, but prize money, not to mention the pride of owning the fastest camel, is enough to motivate owners. In the past, kids were used as jockeys, in order to obtain the lightest camel/jockey combination. But due to numerous accidents, as well as probable child labor abuses, the authorities have since banned the use of children in racing, and have replaced them with small robots. (The so called “robot” is a drill with a flexible stick that whips the camel)

 
I meet some of the local owners. They come regularly to check the condition of the animals during morning practices. Each wants me to take a picture of their pride and joy, proudly venting their future merits, and invite me to come see for myself during the first races where they will compete. Then, everybody get back in their cars and drive along the track following the various groups. That’s probably the best part of a race, the chasers on the side. As if a camel race was two races in one. One on a dirt track with running camels, a second, on the parallel road, where a bunch of large 4x4s speeds carelessly while they encourage their “stallions”. I’m not sure how they manage to avoid each other, more focused on their camels than the car in front or next to them.
 
It’s getting hotter. Better move on…
 
camel racing
Camel training

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