A day at the camel races, Qatar

With my sister visiting us, we decided to once more check out the camel races. Over a year since our last visit, this time it was a lot more organised, plenty of police, an ambulance, more Land Cruisers (the standard four-wheel-drive vehicle for Arabs) and a lot more camels, I think a lot of this was also due to a refurbished camel track. We arrived a little too early at one o’clock and as usual didn’t really know if the camel races were going to occur or even where to watch.

As it approached half past one, Land Cruisers gathered on either side of the start, and we could see camels being herded to the starting pens, and as usual, with no prior notice, the gates were opened and the camels began to race.

We watched a few starts, and even followed the Land Cruisers with our Nissan Sunny, behind the scenes in the holding pen were plenty of camels waiting their turn to race.

Camels about to start the race
And They're Off
Camels racing
Camels racing and Land Cruisers following
Racing camels
Camel and handler
Camels waiting to race
Camel with Qatari coloured harness
Camel and handler
Camels with handler after racing

To get there take Garafat Al Rayyan and Dukhan Hwy north-west for about forty kilometres and taking about forty minutes, signs will be posted once you get approach. Camel races occur on Fridays one o’clock.

Camel racing, Qatar

On the weekend we decided to venture to the Qatar camel race tracks in the hope of watching the traditional Bedouin sport. Little information could be found out about the races beforehand, except that they are usually held in winter and the main race course was in Al Shahhaniya. Races supposedly commenced after midday Fridays and Saturdays (the weekend here).

We arrived at the race course (about 40 minutes out of Doha) around 1pm, there was no one around aside from a few camels being trained. The stands were empty and locked so we figured the race had most probably been cancelled. As we were there already, we decided to take a few photographs of the training camels. After some time, we noticed other cars appearing and eventually established that the races were to commence at 1:30pm. It wasn’t a sit down and watch from the stands kind of race. The local custom is to drive your car (4WD in most cases) along side the racing camels – there’s even a road which runs next to the track.

We lingered around the starting point for the next 20 minutes, watched the trainers as they prepared the camels. Rather than a human jockey, they use robot jockeys which have an electronically controlled whip. Quite a comical sight. We somehow kind of missed the first race – there was no official announcement or anything – it just happened suddenly and I suspect the race really started whenever the camels wanted to start. However, there were another 3 races to go. It was all very entertaining to watch. One camel even headed in the opposite direction. During the last race we joined the convoy of 4WDs (in our tiny 208 Peugeot coupe) and drove alongside the camels towards the finish line. There were plenty of people there, mainly Qatari, in their white Landcruisers driving crazily around the track and cheering along their camels. It was definitely worth the visit – a very local and fun experience!

Mustering the camelsMustering the camelsPreparing for the races
Looking seriousMore camelsTeam Qatar (maroon and white)
Robot jockeysCamel with trainerPreparing for the start
And they are off and racingFollowing the racing camelsTrainers following their camels