x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Camels are ready to rumble

Dromedaries from across region to race in RAK this weekend.

Trainers scamper out of the way during last year's Camel Race Festival at the Al Sawan track in Ras al Khaimah.
Trainers scamper out of the way during last year's Camel Race Festival at the Al Sawan track in Ras al Khaimah.

Ras al Khaimah // Camels of all creeds and colours will travel from across the Gulf to compete at the 20th annual Camel Race Festival, which kicks off at the Al Sawan racetrack on Saturday.

The necks of the victorious camels will be decorated with saffron, but the sheikhs and tribesmen who own them will have their thoughts on much more lucrative prizes. Awards last year included 70 cars, Dh7 million and a golden sword, the traditional prize for the event's overall champion.

For others, it is all about the love of the race and beauty of the beast.

"Sawan is beautiful, and this week I will be there with people from Oman, Qatar and Saudi," said Abdulla Rashid, who is 36. "So many camels come from the Gulf. They come by the hundreds: Arabian camels, black camels, milking camels."

Mr Rashid owns a farm near the track on which he and his family breed and race the animals during the winter season.

He plans to race five of his camels at the festival, but will face serious competition, both on the track and off of it.

Owners spur their camels on by tuning their radios to the live commentary and racing their cars and SUVs up and down the dunes near the track, whooping encouragement at the camels and their robot jockeys.

Those less inclined to the dangers of trackside dune-bashing can join sheikhs and VIPs and observe the race from an elevated platform.

And there will likely be some dealing during the weekend; camel traders from Sudan usually congregate under the trees near the track entrance, keen to make a sale or two to spectators inspired by the event's energy.

The festival ends on Thursday, and regular races will resume at the track on Friday morning.

azacharias@thenational.ae