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The Fast and the Furriest: Camel racing in the Arab world

The Fast and the Furriest: Camel racing in the Arab world

Camel racing has long been an important part of Arab culture. The sport continues to grow in success, reflecting Arab’s rich heritage and enduring traditions. Camel racing has plenty of exciting and festive events that capture the interest of both locals and tourists.

This guide explains why this racing event is popular in various countries.

Where it started

In the Middle East, camel racing has been a popular traditional sport since the Middle Ages. It was a popular entertainment during festivals and social events.

For thousands of years, camels were a vital part of Middle Eastern societies' transportation systems. It was in the oil surge of the mid-20th century that cars began to replace them.

In contrast to modern camel races, races in earlier years had far less planning for both the arrangements and the prizes. For example, it was rare for the racers to be announced more than 24 hours in advance.

Most often, camel owners would challenge one another to compete. The sport had almost no restrictions, and foul players between racers were common. Specific categories based on camel or rider weight or age were also nonexistent.

Today, camel races are one of the most successful events in the Arab world, featuring different classes and divisions based on race distance, camel age, and breed. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also built various camel racing tracks, including the Al-Wathba and Nad Al-Shiba.

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Aside from being an integral part of Arab culture, camel racing is popular in the Arab world for various reasons. These include:

Symbol of prestige

The Arab world values owning camels and racing as a sign of social status and honour. Camel racing is a lucrative industry, and wealthy people and powerful families spend a fortune on camel breeding, training, and maintenance. The owners and the tribes related to the camels gain honour and fame when their camel wins.

Traditional festivals

Traditional Arab festivals and cultural events often feature camel racing. These events attract large crowds and allow communities to come together and strengthen their bonds. The races are the centre of these festivals and contribute to their lively and festive atmosphere.


Many companies and businesses are attracted to camel racing because of its marketing power that promotes their brands and products in the Arab world. They sponsor camel racing events by offering support and prizes.

In return, they gain exposure and recognition from camel racing fans. Sponsorship also provides financial support for the races, enhancing the overall quality of the events and boosting the number of racers and viewers.

Tech advancements

The adoption of tech innovations has increased the appeal of camel racing, including the development of modern racing circuits. Many of these circuits boast improved tracks, timing systems, and amenities.

Many camel races now use robot jockeys as replacements for child jockeys. This change has been made to address ethical concerns and ensure the racers' well-being.

Social gatherings

Camel races are important social events in the Arab world. They foster the unity of communities and families, offer a chance for people to establish connections, and enhance the bonds within the community.

As a crucial part of their culture, camel racing has cemented its place as a popular sport in various Arab countries. These include:

  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)

  • Saudi Arabia

  • Qatar

  • Oman

  • Bahrain

  • Kuwait

  • Yemen

  • Jordan

  • Iraq

  • Sudan

The biggest camel racing events in the world

One of the major reasons why camel racing became a huge success is its big events that happen throughout the year. Some of the best ones include:

Dubai Camel Racing Festival

The Dubai Camel Racing Festival is a grand and thrilling camel racing event held in Dubai between October and April. It has long tracks spanning several kilometres on the sand for a good running surface for the camels.

They are also equipped with cutting-edge equipment including robotic jockeys that control the camels throughout the races. Apart from the races, the Dubai Camel Racing Festival also offers a variety of entertainment and cultural activities.

People can explore Bedouin (desert dweller) tents and experience the Bedouin tribe’s way of life. There are also native music, dance shows, and delicious Arabian cuisines.

King Abdulaziz Camel Festival

The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival is held in Saudi Arabia. It honours the historical significance of camels in Saudi culture, celebrating their role as companions, a mode of transport, and their ability to thrive in the desert environment.

At the event, rare camels are sold for high prices. It also helps businesses that breed camels and sell goods.

Qatar Camel Festival

The Qatar Camel Festival is a colourful festival of camels and Qatari culture. Camel owners from Qatar and other Arabian countries get together for a sports event, a social gathering, and a chance to ride camels.

The festival is organised by the Qatar Camel Mazayen Club, a group whose sole purpose is to support and develop camel breeding in the country. One of the attractions in the Qatar Camel Festival is camel beauty contests wherein the animals are judged based on their physical attributes.

Salalah Festival

The Salalah or Khaleef Festival is an annual event held in Salalah, Oman, during the Khareef season from June to September. In Oman, the Khareef season, which translates to autumn, is known when monsoon rains occur, which is the height of summer in other areas.

Aside from camel races, various events showcase Oman’s culture, including music, dance, and poetry readings. Art shows, souvenir shops, Oman cuisine, and other sports games also exist.

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Arab betting culture on camel racing

Camel racing is often linked to a strong betting culture in Arab countries. Betting on camel races has been a traditional practice that dates back many years, adding excitement and competition to the races.

Some of the key points about Arab camel betting culture include:

Informal betting

Since camel racing has been around for centuries, it’s common for Arabs to bet on the sport informally, among their family and friends. They negotiate the terms of the bet among themselves, including the wager amount or other items of value, such as jewellery or livestock.

By betting within the local community, cameral betting has become an exciting and friendly competition. Informal betting in Arab culture relies on trust and honour among those involved.

Robotic jockeys

Camel racing used to employ young children as jockeys, but concerns about their safety and well-being led to the creation of robotic ones. To address this issue, robotic jockeys were introduced.

These robots are designed to sit on the camels' backs and control their movements using remote control tech instead of a human. The use of this tech made positive changes in the sport, ensuring the welfare of children in the country.

With the existence of robotic jockeys, camel betting purely focuses on the camel’s performance in the race. Neither human jockey errors nor their win/loss rates are considered in camel betting unlike in traditional horse racing.

The future of camel racing: Virtual races

With the immense success of camel racing, it’s expected that virtual camel races will soon dominate the industry. Although this sounds too good to be true, a variety of sports already have their virtual counterparts.

These include virtual horse racing like ZED RUN, which you can bet on at Sportset.io. ZED RUN combines crypto and virtual horse racing with the power of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

With NFT horse racing at ZED RUN, you can own virtual racehorses and send them off to racing events where you can win. Each horse has unique attributes and a bloodline that affects its speed and performance. What’s great about betting on ZED RUN races is that they don’t have a strict schedule and aren't limited to traditional races.

As the success of virtual races like ZED RUN grows each year, the industry is highly likely to add more races to the category. This means you don’t have to go to Arab festivals to bet on exciting camel races in the future.

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Rica Miranda24 Apr 2024

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