Al Wathbah Cup one of the glitziest of the racing season
There is good news and there is bad news.
First, the good news.
If you’re in Abu Dhabi, count yourself lucky. This is the best week of the year to catch a camel race if you live in the capital.
The Al Wathbah Cup launched March 10 and runs until March 19. The season finals are the biggest races of the year and are expected to draw an estimated 8,000 camels and their owners.
Al Wathbah is famous for its prizes, particularly the staggering number of vehicles awarded.
Glimmering cars are parked near the racecourse as a display of wealth, and the generosity of the rulers who sponsor the race. The sidelines look more like Motor World than an agricultural racetrack.
The Al Wathbah Cup not only draws crowds because of prizes, but also their value. At a smaller track during a smaller festival you might win, say, a Yaris or Tiida. At Al Wathbah, you could win a Land Cruiser.
Race sessions start at 7am and 2.30pm. Races are categorised by the camel’s age, sex and ownership. There are races for the public, who often bred their race camel, and sheikhs, who have the money to buy the best. This makes it a more even competitive.
Races began Monday with three-year-old camels and will culminate on the final day with an eight-kilometre races for mature camels, ages six and up.
There is no registration or fee to attend. Just drive up and join the pack of 4x4s racing alongside the camels. Make sure you’re not going in the opposite direction.
This festival’s races are officially considered the season finals but there are still race sessions planned in Marmoun and Al Wathbah in May. As camel racing becomes more lucrative and popular, the race season is pushed further into the summer months.
The bad news is that Wanassa has a cold and will not be racing.
Al Wathbah finals schedule
March 11: Four years, public
March 12: Four years, sheikh
March 13: Five years, public
March 14: Five years, sheikh
March 15: Six year, six km race, public (morning) and sheikh (afternoon)
March 16: Mature camels ages six and above, public (morning) and sheikh (afternoon)
March 17: Six year olds, eight km public (morning) and sheikh (afternoon)
March 18: Mature camels, eight km, public
March 19: Mature camels, eight km, sheikh