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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Dh95 million in prizes for Dubai's fastest camels

The first annual Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Camel Race Festival runs until February 20

The festival has begun at the camel racetrack in Al Marmoun. Reem Mohammed / The National
The festival has begun at the camel racetrack in Al Marmoun. Reem Mohammed / The National

The fastest camels in the Gulf will compete for cash, swords, rifles and luxury vehicles totalling Dh95 million at the first annual Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Camel Race Festival in Dubai.

The festival has begun at the camel racetrack in Al Marmoun. Races run daily from 7am to 10am and 2pm to 5pm until Tuesday, February 20.

The festival is set become one of the largest annual fixtures on the Gulf camel racing circuit, which runs from October to April.

“There is prize money and there are daggers and there are swords to be won,” said Rashid Ali, a press editor at the Dubai Camel Racing Club.

Races are categorised by age and ownership. As is traditional, camels owned by sheikhs and camels owned by tribesmen compete in separate categories.

Races are mixed sex, except for mature camels ages six and up. These will will compete in eight-kilometre races in male (zamool) and female (hool) categories on the last three days from February 18 to February 20.

The fastest mature male will win a dagger and Dh800,000.

The fastest mature female will win a gold-plated sword and Dh1million.

“Usually the hool is respected more than the male because it has the stamina and sometimes the prizes for the hool will be better,” said Mr Ali.

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These races will serve as qualifiers for the 2017-2018 season finals in April.

Those looking to break into this lucrative sport can attend auctions on Monday and Tuesday. More than 300 naturally conceived camels will be auctioned by independent Gulf breeders. They are expected to sell from Dh300,000.

Tourists and camel novices are welcome to join. Free shuttle buses to the track from Dubai Mall and Union Square RTA bus stops will leave daily 12pm and return at 5pm. Conservative dress is recommended. Women and men should keep their shoulders and legs covered.