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When to Find Camels: A Rough Guide, inshallah

  |  February 12, 2014

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 15, 2013 - Race in progress in Sheikh Category yesterday at Al Wathba camel race finals, UAE seasons finals for 2012 and 2013, near Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 15, 2013 - Race in progress in Sheikh Category yesterday at Al Wathba camel race finals, UAE seasons finals for 2012 and 2013, near Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

First, a disclaimer:

One of the great things about the Emirates is flow and fluidity. This is embodied in the IBM mantra. Inshallah, God willing. Bukra, tomorrow. Malesh, donít worry.

I feel that a healthy relationship with the country requires a certain acceptance of the IBM mantra. Fight IBM and youíll be disgruntled, disappointed and disheartened. Embrace it.

The historian Bernard Louis quotes a French visitor to the Middle East in 1947:

I have made and I still make the most sincere efforts, during my travels in the East, to arrive late at the appointments which they were kind enough to give me and the time of which was always carefully discussed and finally agreed. I must admit that these virtuous attempts remain unsuccessful.

Wise and experienced men...sometimes said to me ďHere the sky is too blue, the sun too hot. Why hurry? Why do injury to the sweetness of living? Here, everybody is late. The only thing is to join them. He who arrives at the appointed hour risks wasting his time, and that, after all, is not funny.

Therefore, not too much precision. Strict exactitude has minor advantages, but is very inconvenient. It lacks suppleness, it lacks fantasy, it lacks cheerfulness, even dignity."

Apply the IBM mantra when searching for camels. Races are often announced over the mobile networks and by word of mouth.

My advice is to just go to the track. Tracks are surrounded by small farms and people train throughout the day so you will certainly see camels, even if they are not racing.

Weekend races:

Race season runs from October.† Small races are held weekly across the country. The season ends when things get hot in late March or early April.

Beauty contests are held in the coolest months of the year. The big one is every December in Al Dhafrah. Suffice it to say, this seasonís beauty queens are crowned. Itís race time.

Races at Sweihan and Wathbah in Abu Dhabi are Fridays and Saturday, 6.30-9am and 3-5pm.

The Suan track in Ras Al Khaimah has races Thursday to Saturday, from 6.30am.

I am told that races in Marmoun, Dubai are Sunday to Thursday, from 7am. I could not confirm this.

Races start on time. If you show up at 10.00am, donít expect to see camels kicking up dust.

Festival schedule:

If you are not a morning person, then festivals are a good alternative. During festivals there are usually two sets of races a day, at 7am for bedu-owned camels and at 2.30pm for sheikh-owned camels.

Festivals have impromptu markets where dates, honey, perfume and camel tack are sold from tents and car boots. There are often related events like saluki racing, falconry, milking competitions and camel auctions on the sidelines.

Schedules are tentative and subject to change. Here are approximate dates:

Owners have been asked to register for Sweihan races on February 14 and 15.

February 15, four kilometre race, Doha

February 16-20, morning and afternoon, four to six kilometre race, Doha

February 22-26, morning and afternoon, eight kilometre race, Doha

Camel owners have told me the Doha festival ends early March. This is the official Doha schedule in Arabic.

March 10-19, Annual Finals, Al Wathbah, Abu Dhabi

April 6-17, Marmoun Festival, Dubai

April 10-12 and April 17-18, Qasr Al Hosn Festival, Al Wathbah, Abu Dhabi

The Wathbah schedule is available in Arabic here.

A spokesperson for the Camel Race Association said that dates are subject to change. To confirm Al Wathbah festivals, call the Camel Race Association at†02 583 9227.

For directions and additional race track information, see this post on Gulf tracks.

If you have further information, please share it.