SEVERE WX: Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Camel racing: The multi-million dollar industry mixing modernity and tradition

Deep in the heart of the United Arab Emirates, the ancient sport of camel racing is enjoying a resurgence.In k...

Posted: Dec. 25, 2017 7:09 AM
Updated: Dec. 25, 2017 7:09 AM

Deep in the heart of the United Arab Emirates, the ancient sport of camel racing is enjoying a resurgence.

In keeping with the region's rapid development from gulf outpost to economic hotspot, prize money for winning camels can now be upwards of $2 million.

One bull camel was reportedly sold recently for 35 million Dirham -- over $9.5 million.

"It's part of the tradition, it's part of the culture," accomplished endurance rider Hussain al Marzooqi tells CNN.

"There's a hardly a house you can find that doesn't have a camel owner in it."

The sport has been around for centuries but technology is changing the game.

WATCH: Horse racing ... on snow

Since child riders were outlawed in 2002, small robots are now frequently used instead of humans in a move towards a "more humane" form of racing.

The robots -- weighing no more than 4kg -- possess a walkie-talkie speaker enabling owners to deliver commands to the camels during the race, as well a small automatic whip operated by a remote control.

A fleet of cars drives alongside the camels as the race unfolds enabling owners to dictate the speed of the robot's whip.

"It's sound thinking to put a robot on a young camel," says Al Marzooqi. "Before it used to be young riders on them but the UAE has always wanted to go forward doing the correct thing."

WATCH: Japan's fluffy toy passion

Track length typically varies between 1.5 and 8 kilometers, while camels that have just been broken in can expect to train between two and three kilometers per day.

"I wouldn't say it's particularly different to training a thoroughbred horse," says Al Marzooqi.

"You have the feeding, you have the keeping the weight, you have the cardio work, then you have the strength work.

"Camels have been domesticated for a very long time; some say even before the horse."

But big business means big investment. Racing camels get their blood tested every week and follow special dietary regimes.

"I know some trainers that buy honey for their camels for about 12,000 Dirhams ($3,250) per kilogram," says Al Marzooqi.

"Some of these camels really get treated well. The average cost of keeping a camel here would be 4,000-5,000 Dirhams ($1,000-1,300) per month. It's on a par with keeping a thoroughbred."

Article Comments

Mason City
Overcast
25° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 12°
Albert Lea
Overcast
25° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 15°
Austin
Overcast
27° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 16°
Charles City
Overcast
27° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 16°
Rochester
Overcast
27° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 17°
We're tracking accumulating snowfall for tonight
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Your Friday KIMT StormTeam3 Forecast

Image

Rochester students learning dance, teaching more than just moves

Image

Retailers gearing up for black friday

Image

UMR students discuss rise in hate crimes

Image

Women discuss election wins and losses

Image

Dream season comes to an end

Image

Mobile breast exam clinic

Image

Warriors welcomed home

Image

Legal clinic for sexual assault survivors

Image

Rise above Islamophobia

Community Events