Dubai Camels - In Pictures
Camels in Dubai
Having lived in Dubai for a number of years I have developed a love for camels. Not only are these creatures amazing in their ability to survive in the desert for long periods of time on reduced supplies of food and water, I also think that they are beautiful creatures and are also still very useful to man.
The local love for the camel has never faded, to the point where the most beautiful camels are sold at auctions for millions of dollars. They also race camels on a regular basis and rear them for their milk and other camel related products.
Seeing Camels in Dubai
If you come to Dubai now and expect to see camels then you might be disappointed if you just stick to the normal tourist routes. However, if you only go slightly off the beaten track then you can encounter some camels that are tended by locals in places like Nad al Sheba and on the borders of the Dubai Bypass Road and between Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. In fact any large area of sandy land will likely have some camels wandering on it, albeit they will have their legs tied to stop them from going too far.
Particular places to see camels in Dubai:
Nad al Sheba (camel training area and more towards Al Khail Road)
Emirates Road on the way to Umm al Quwain
Camel racing takes place during the colder winter months of October to April and the races tend to be run in the early morning on a Thursday or Friday (Friday is the main weekend day in the UAE). Camel racing is a serious business and this is where breeders can fetch large sums of money for successful racing camels.
Recently a new camel racing track has been opened on the Al Ain Road heading to Al Ain after the Sevens Rugby Stadium (there is a sign at the junction on the right hand side of the road). They hold a camel racing festival every year for about a week and tourists are encouraged to visit. it is still kind of in the early stages of getting known. When I went down there I saw less than a handful of westerners but I was made very welcome by the locals.
The camels all race with the small robots on their backs with their owners driving in their 4x4s at the side of the track. It is a great photo opportunity as there are hundreds of camels all in the same area and you can go round taking plenty of photos :-)
A few years ago camels were raced with child jockeys who were often brought in from Pakistan after being sold by their families to racing stables. This was a very controversial practice as the children were often very young and did not get much schooling and was outlawed around 5 years ago at which point robots were used on the camels instead of human jockeys.
I went to the Dubai Camel Racing track at Nad al Sheba in 2005 with a friend of mine to try to check out the camel racing. However, when we got there the guys racing the camels were not happy to see us and threatened us with the police if we did not leave. At the time we thought it might be because we were women and we were treading on the toes of the local guys who thought this was for them and them only. I had my camera and was taking a few pictures when we got there.
Being a bit concerned, my friend and I left rather quickly and it was only later that we realised that they wanted us to leave more than likely because this was in the days when camel racing did involve the child jockeys. Below is the only picture I got of the camels and jockeys getting ready to race. I think maybe the guys thought we were journalists or something and were going to expose them but as it was we didn't know what we had got in to. I have blanked out a few of the faces just in case...
Unfortunately Camels Are Dying
The sad fact now is that around 30% of camels in the wild die be ingesting plastic. Mostly this is in the form of plastic bags that are used and discarded thoughtlessly in the desert and when the camel eats the plastic bags it stays in it’s stomach, calcifies and the camel ends up dying of starvation. With a new initiative to eradicate the use of plastic bags in the UAE by 2013, it is hoped that this can save the lives of thousands of camels.