x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

What makes a champ racer?

The head of Suan camel track, in Ras al Khaimah, explains the differences between race camels and those that compete in beauty contests.

The race camel is a completely different beast to the dark brown giants that win beauty contests.

Camels used in beauty contests, known as majahim, are prized for their enormous hump, sagging lips, straight ears, large head, long lashes and, above all, their sheer enormity.

But racing camels have light hair, ranging from white to yellow, and a small hump due to strenuous training and a diet that requires them go hungry before big race days.

The best race camels are those with a yellow hue, known as safara.

"Not-yellow yellow," explains Mohammed Muradad, the head of the Suan camel track in Ras Al Khaimah. "It's a little black, a little brown. It's not the yellow of the car and it's not golden.

"This beautiful colour, all the time it is first. Sure, yanni, Sabhan Allah (God is glorious), in 80 of 100 times this camel takes first in the race."

Pedigree is important for any competitive camel, whether she's on the racetrack at Al Wathba or strutting her stuff before the grandstands at Al Dhafra.

Racing camels are known by the names of their most famous ancestry, camels such as Misk and Shaheen, which have become legends in racing history.

In both sports, camels reach the height of their career about six years old, before old age slowly begins to set in.

Only the luckiest keep their health, strength and looks for some years to come.

azacharias@thenational.ae