Thousands of years, camels played a vital role in our region. They impacted all aspects of daily life in the desert. They were used for travel, food, and shelter. And they were also used for entertainment and competing during celebrations and events.
Camel racing is the ancient and most important traditional sport of the Bedouin. Famous around Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula. Camels are slow starters but can reach a top speed of 65 kilometers an hour. A racing camel looks like an enormous greyhound. Their long legs and small humps create excellent streamlining.
In an official camel race, there are prizes for the first, second, and third winners. Cars, swords, and money are typical prices. Although the sport is suitable for gambling (like horse racing), it not part of the camel racing as Islam forbids gambling.
Sheikh Zayed Camels Race Festival
Almost all races take place during spring and fall. The most important and famous camel race in Wadi Rum is the Sheikh Zayed Camels Race Festival. During the races, members of different Bedouin tribes compete with each other. These days, the majority of the camel races take place at the camel race track. But sometimes traditional races are still held on a sandy plain or in a wadi.
On the two-day final stage of the Sheikh Zayed Camels Race Festival, more than 200 camels competed. The races took place at the race track near Disi in the last week of October. Just a few competitors from Saudia Arabia completed this further all Wadi Rum villages affair. We were delighted that one of our uncles won a sword with his camel.
Robots replaced the jockeys
Around ten years ago, a law was introduced that prohibits the use of jockeys in official camel races. The riders were replaced by ever-evolving robots, which consist of a frame with the receiver, motor, battery, and whip. The camel owners control the robots while driving their SUV’s and pick-up trucks next to the track. The need to be within a specific range to communicate with the camel via walkie talkies. The use of robots over jockeys helped the camels to break all previous speed records. But improvements can still be made. Besides technical issues, the most common challenge is interference with other transmitters, which can result in shouting at somebody else’s camel.
Breeding race camels is a lucrative business
Over time camel racing evolved into an official and professional sport. Specialized farms, intensive training programs, and new technology are used to prepare the camels for their racing future. Camels that win races or perform well overall can be sold for high prices to buyers from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Their value can rise to a staggering amount of 1 million USD. Therefore thoroughbred camels can be a lucrative business for everybody who can afford to buy and breed racing camels.
Do you want to attend a race?
The data of bigger races are published a few weeks in advance. But only a few days before a race it will be confirmed. That makes attending a camel race during your stay a challenge, especially if you are on a tight schedule.
When you are interested in attending a race, let us know upfront. If a race takes place during your stay, we can take you to the track. Be prepared for a unique and exciting experience. And lots and lots of dust and sand.