Friday, January 29, 2010
We finally made it to the camel races. While my mom was here, I made elaborate plans to go and we couldn't find the track or any information on when they were held and how to get there. After doing a bit more research, I found where they were. In the end, it was about 45 kilometers from where I live and there were signs all over giving directions of how to get there.
When we got there, the races were already going on. Just as we were arriving a flock of trucks was driving towards us causing a small amount of panic in my wife. We realized that they were following the camels who were just finishing their race. I'd already heard about the camel races in the U.A.E. from the Amazing Race Season 5 so I was already up on how they use remote controlled robots to whip the camels rather than strap terrified young children to the camels like they used to. I later realized that because the race course is so long that the guys racing the camels have to follow them in trucks so they can control the robot jockeys on the camels' backs.
I saw some American-looking women getting out of a truck so gravitated to them for guidance. As it turned out, it was their first time there but they'd already seem a few races so were able to give me a few pointers about what was going on such as where the start and finish were. The starting line is just a screen at head-height for a camel and when the race starts, it's lifted and they all take off. The track is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from what I could tell. At the finish, the camels are led into a chute. The track doesn't make a complete circle so the following race is ready to go and starts within a minute of the previous one finishing.
The American women also told me that if I asked, one of the guys in the trucks would let me ride in the back while they followed along. It was really cool getting a prime seat of what was going on. One guy drove and the other had the remote for the robot that would occasionally whip the camel. The robot must've also had a speaker in it because the guy kept shouting at the camel to get it going faster.
Overall, it was a pretty cool morning. The whole thing was over by a little after 10:00. It's hard to really describe the atmosphere, so I've included a few photos and some video that I took while riding in the truck. The racing season is coming to a close soon, but I want to make sure that I go again a few times next year.