72 jockeys test their endurance in UAE’s first camel marathon
Dubai: The first camel marathon in the UAE saw 72 camel jockeys matching skills in one of the country’s oldest traditional sports.
The 24km race organised by the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Heritage Centre (HHC) in cooperation with Dubai Camel Racing Club kicked off at the Dubai International Endurance City at 10am on Thursday.
The jockeys, some of whom trained with their camels for weeks and even months, began the race with one goal in mind — winning first place.
Emirati jockey Yahya Saeed and his camel achieved the goal by reaching the finish line first in just under an hour-and-a-half.
“I started the race slowly and then took off at the 6-7km mark. It was a strategy to hide my skills and not pose as a threat to the other contestants,” said Saeed after collecting his prize, a Range Rover.
Saeed trained for no less than an hour and a half every day in the past month.
The first place winner previously won seven 14km camel race championships.
Emirati jockeys Sultan Nuab Nood and Salem Obaid Al Hammadi finished second and third respectively.
The age of the participating camels ranged from 18 to 50. Prizes were awarded to the top 50 contestants. The top three won luxury vehicles while the rest received cash prizes.
Souad Ebrahim Darwish, director of championships at HHC, said the concept behind the event is to “revive the intangible heritage of the nation,” as camels are a symbol of the UAE.
She explained the connection between a jockey and his camel is key in camel racing. “A jockey has to understand the nature of his camel and be aware of its endurance levels, and what and when to feed it. The bond is built over a long period of time, and long hours of practice are needed to win a camel race,” she said.
Since the marathon was announced nearly two months ago, more than 150 contestants registered, and 72 took part. The initial distance set for the marathon was 50km, but was reduced to 24km at the request of the jockeys. “It’s important to remember that this is the first edition of the event and a trial run. Hopefully in time the distance will increase,” Souad said.
She added the camel marathon has been included to the UAE’s annual event agenda and will take place during the National Day week every year.