Camel racing: the most famous traditional sports in the Arab world

By | December 29, 2020

Camel racing is one of the most famous traditional sports in the Arab world. Festivals in Egypt still allow organizers to recruit children to fly camels despite the risks.

Camel camels, mostly children, are participating in the 18th International Camel Race Festival in the Sarabium Desert in Ismailia, Egypt on March 12. Camel racing is a traditional sport of the Bedouin – nomadic Arabs living in the deserts of northern Africa, the Arabian peninsula, Iraq and the Levant.

The race in Sarabium, the Ismailia region last week gathered nearly 150 camels from many local tribes, divided into eight categories, with track lengths ranging from 5 to 15 km. Camel pompoms mostly fall between the ages of 6-13. According to the organizers, the festival attracted nearly 1,000 people to watch.

Camel racing is one of the most famous traditional sports in the Arab world. Many rich Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, also host camel races with generous rewards for high rankings. A camel that wins the race will increase the selling price significantly.

Mohamed Mostafa, a camel breeder who arrived at Ismailia last week, said the first-place camel in the races could be sold for between 150,000 and 200,000 Egyptian pounds (about $ 8,700-11,600). The loser camels sold for around £ 10,000 (nearly $ 580).

Some Gulf countries have banned the recruitment of children as camel implants. Many human rights groups have warned of children being injured by having to control animals many times larger than themselves. Many groups also recorded children kidnapped or sold by their own families to racing organizers.

Most children attending the festival in Ismailia support the maintenance of the camel racing tradition. Sayed Mohamed, 11 years old, insists that only children can control a camel effectively. Camels often tilt themselves to change direction. He found himself better than robots when he controlled camels like that, adjusting the track for them.

Esam el-Din Atiyah, president of the African Camel Racing Federation, admits many cases of begging children to get injured while playing. Human rights organizations say this is child abuse. He wanted Egypt to completely switch to robotic camel racing, but the transfer process was quite expensive and time consuming.

At this year’s event in northeastern Egypt, under pressure from many human rights groups, organizers of the race began testing robots instead of pleading with children. According to Reuters, at the race on 12/3 in Ismailia, the organizers gave a trial test of 20 camel control robots racing with traditional children.