Wearing brightly colored helmets, eight female jockeys tightly clutch the reigns of their camels as they wait for the gates to be lifted and the race to kick-off.
The women are taking part the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Center Championship, held for the second year in a row at the al-Marmoom track in Dubai.
“This event has a lot more components than just the race of the camels or the athletic part behind it,” said co-founder of the center, Linda Krockenberger
“It’s also building bridges between Emirati heritage, with a bit of a new side to it, which is ladies. It also brings together residents who chose the UAE as their home, and engage in a more traditional hobby,” she added.
Participant Joanna Patejuk, who is representing Poland and Ukraine, says riding camels presents different challenges to riding on horses.
“The important thing is to keep the balance, to keep the rhythm and to find the connection - the right connection with the proper camel you actually ride in the race,” she said.
The jockeys will compete with their camels in five races across a six-month period. The jockey with the most point collected overall will be crowned the season champion, and receive a cash prize.
Camels hold a great significance in Arab culture. They have been used for centuries by the bedouins of the region for food, transport, as a war machine and companion.
In an effort to preserve the Gulf Arab country’s cultural legacy, the UAE encourages and hosts a variety of camel- related events, from racing, to festivals to beauty pageants.
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