Camel racing in Qatar expensive but popular sport

An expensive racing camel can cost as much as a luxury car. [File/Al-Shorfa]

An expensive racing camel can cost as much as a luxury car. [File/Al-Shorfa]

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Camel racing in Qatar boasts a long tradition, once a simple form of entertainment has now evolved into a fiercely competitive and expensive sport.

Today camel racing is an expensive hobby that few can afford because some breeds cost more than the most luxurious cars in the world, with prices reaching as high as one million Qatari riyals ($360,000).

"Camel racing is a sport we inherited from our ancestors, and it appeals to young people in the Gulf in general and Qatar in particular," said Mansour al-Mohannadi, the owner of camel named "al-Abka".

"Every year, several camel races are held in Qatar and other Gulf countries. The races attract enthusiastic crowds of dignitaries, citizens, and residents. Participants compete for valuable prizes. The most valuable prize is the Golden Sword awarded at the end of the year at the Al-Shahaniya track in Doha," he told Al-Shorfa.

Tala al-Nehma, owner of a camel breeding farm, said many farm owners spend heavily on camel breeding, adding that the Qatari government provides many benefits to support farm owners, including water and veterinary services.

He discussed other major expenses that farm owners must shoulder.

"In order to become a camel breeder, you need a large tract of land that is suitable for breeding and be able to cover feed costs because the price of camel feed has increased from five riyals ($1.30) to 10 riyals per half kilogram," he said.

"There is also the cost of (artificial) insemination for some breeds of camels, which could be very high, especially if it is done outside the country."

Al-Mohannadi paid 110,000 riyals ($30,000) to fly al-Abka from Qatar to Oman to have it artificially inseminated. He said the trip was a small price to pay considering the potential returns he could earn from a purebred camel.

Al-Nehma said camel trading is conducted throughout the Middle East and the Gulf in particular. There are good breeds in Iraq, Syria and parts of North Africa, which are usually cheaper than Gulf camels, he said.

Camel racing season kicked off in early November

The first set of camel races began in Qatar earlier this month, the launching point for a racing season that continues through February and features local and Gulf region tournaments.

Al-Shahaniya camel racing track, north of Doha, holds local tournaments every Friday from November through February. Distances vary by tournament, but each race rarely exceeds five kilometres.

Robot jockeys replaced child jockeys after the Council of Ministers issued a decree in 2004 that prohibited the use of child jockeys because of safety risks.

Camel races in Qatar attract wide media attention. Khalid Mohamed Makhlouf, an Egyptian sports media analyst who follows camel racing, said they "reflect the disposition of [Qatari and Gulf] society, which still values camel racing."

"The tournaments have become a Qatari hallmark and draw crowds from outside the country, especially tourists who arrive during the tournament season. The races are now global in every sense of the word."

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  • READER COMMENTS

    عمر عبد اللطيف

    2014-1-20

    The Camel Sport Association is pleased to invite you to witness the entry of the Qatari crossbred camels in the international competitions, which is organized by the association like the international camel race (crossbred). Participating states: Tunisia (the host), France, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Switzerland, and Germany. Your attendance supports us and makes the competition stronger. Thanks.

  • محمد المري

    2013-11-26

    Thank you for the wonderful efforts.

  • فلاح قيس

    2011-12-19

    Camel racing is one of the best sports activities in the Gulf States. I love this sport. The Gulf States are the Arab countries that care the most for this sport. Camel racing requires a lot of money, because it is expensive. It is necessary to have a lot of money and a strong budget to reach a developed stage of this sport. The camel races organized in the Gulf States are the best; they are very important activities there. I think spending money to have this sport is very important. Having racing camels and looking after them is expensive; also providing services and training is very important. I am really interested in these races. Spending money to organize these races is normal, because every sport needs a lot of money to reach a high level of development. The Gulf States specialize in organizing these sports events. I wish the best of progress and luck to them. I hope they stay the leaders and most advanced countries in practicing this sport. I wish success to all the teams, God willing.

  • هاني

    2011-12-17

    It is unnecessary and unimportant to care about camel racing this much. I support paying money for good purposes, such as supporting the people in need to live safely and peacefully. The Gulf States are the richest among countries. It is OK to spend money, yet it should not be overspent, because they are Muslim countries. So, they know that overspending without any gain is forbidden. This is a sort of wastefulness. They know that overspending is condemned according to the Qur’an. I want to tell them that they can support their brothers in other countries, which need help. God willing, you will think it over and you will know that this money is limited, so you will give each person his right. Camel racing is a good, classy activity, but it should be practiced within limits. You have exceeded all the limits. We hope that you spend your money normally and in a good, calculated way.

  • Maso

    2011-12-10

    Camel races are held in most Gulf States. Traders, amirs and influential figures take part in these races because they own camels trained for such races. I would like to talk frankly about what happens at these events. People place their bets of huge sums of money on the camels . The bettors think it is an entertaining game when they spend millions of dinars on the Arab camel races that are organized with a lot of attention. Such events are a waste of time; they are only for entertainment and gaining or losing money. Instead of betting on these races, there could be public events to entertain all of the people who can come and enjoy the atmosphere without betting or wasting money. It is not a good activity, it is religiously and morally forbidden. The rich people and the amirs of the Gulf should be more careful concerning the money of the people. They should not spend money on such trivialities. If these moneys were spent for helping the poor and the needy in the Gulf and Arab and Muslim countries, such as Somalia, it would be much better and more rewarding, because by doing so they will be feeding many people who suffer from the famines. As for me, honestly I do not like these races and I wish they would be cancelled, because these races are for them, not us.

  • جبار احمد

    2011-12-5

    The Arabs have always been famous for their love of breeding horses and camels. This is one of the traditions of the Arabs, because back in the old times, they depended on camels for travel. They are fond of breeding camels in farms to this day. I think the hobby and infatuation of camel breeding is a tradition that the young generations inherited from their fathers. Even camel racing, practiced in some Gulf States today, is also a local inheritance which became very popular among the citizens of the Gulf. They cannot give up this hobby, because their love for camel breeding is a lot stronger than their love for the enormous amounts of money spent on the races.

  • لطفي فارس

    2011-12-5

    Camel racing in the Gulf States, especially in Qatar, is like any other kind of races held in many countries. They are interesting races which attract many of the people in the Arabian Gulf. It is one of the local traditions for many people; a lot of money is spent on the camel races by the rich. I think even though these races are interesting for people, that does not mean we have to spend a lot of money on organizing them. Some people spend up to a hundred thousand dollars or more to take part in these races. I think this is overdoing it; this obscene amount of money spent on entertainment should be spent on more valuable projects than camel racing in the Gulf States. They should help the poor and needy by giving them support and sponsorship. This is much better than spending the money in this extravagant way. Money is a gift from God, so it should be used in a way that will please God. Many citizens in Arab and foreign countries cannot afford the price of bread or medicine. So, the money should be spent on them, such as the people of Somalia, who live in a state of ignorance, poverty and sickness. The money should be spent on helping them. We should not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on camels just for fun.

  • محمد سعيد

    2011-11-23

    Large amounts of money have been spent on camel races in the Gulf countries. This is proof that they live in luxury and comfort. In fact, there are many poor people who need these amounts of money. Thus, this is unacceptable and inhumane, because the families have been unable to provide their basic requirements, while the rich people have wasted these amounts of money on the camels that have participated in these races. This is for the sake of financial gain, because they can win or lose in these games. In fact, it would be better to put these amounts of money in their right place in order to avoid failure and neglect, especially since these people don’t feel the suffering of the poor and the unemployed Arabs and Muslims. These poor people have been unable to feed their children. And this has led to great sorrow, because the nation doesn’t feel the suffering of the other Arab nations’ citizens.