Siham Al Saidi –
In Oman and the rest of the GCC, camels, the ships of the desert, have played essential roles for over a thousand years. Camels proved their significance by impacting all aspects of daily desert life. Besides being a means of travel, a source of food and shelter, they have been long use for entertainment and celebration purposes.
Today, the importance of camels can best be seen during special days and national holidays. All important events in the Sultanate will not be complete without camel racing festivals where these trusted beasts of burden are given the centre stage to show off what they are truly made of.
Camel racing is an authentic Arab sport, and to this day, has remain famous among Arabians. In the Sultanate, it is one of the most important elements of Omanis’ cultural and historical heritage.
Today, camel racing has evolved into an official and professional race that includes race tracks, specialised farms for raising camels and running intensive training programs.
Due to its popularity, a camel race attracts audience not only from inside the country but also from other countries even international ones. A camel’s race typical scene is high adrenaline and full of excitement with the crowd’s enthusiasm high on the air.
What many doesn’t know is that camel racing in the country also have different types of competitions.
For instance, ‘ Alarda’ is a race for two camels. The distance is pre-determined and the camels must run on a pre-prepared race track.
In this type of race, the camels are often maneuvered by robotic or child jockeys. It is also the best time when the Bedouin people are able to show of their skills in balancing between a camel’s humps.
Another competition is called ‘Almuzainah.’
For this competition, the most beautiful camels are chosen according to specific characteristics known among to camel breeders. Some of the criteria look into origin, beauty and uniqueness of the camel.
It is in short, a beauty pageant for camels. A few things known to camel racing enthusiasts is that the best camels are often the ones with the bigger head, the size of the head should also be proportional to the neck and body of the animal and that darker red coloured camels are often the best breed.
Another competition is called ‘Almuhalba’ which means the best camel for producing milk. This kind of competition is very common in Dhofar region.
These competitions are widely spread during the religious holidays, national events and the people celebration. A camel festival or even the simplest of race is often accompanied with special traditional dancing art and fascinating songs called “!altagrood, alhambal and altareq.”
Camel races in the country are overseen by the Oman Camel Racing Federation.
On the finance angle, racing camel is a big business, which is why sometimes, one would notice that they are consider as high-prized possessions by their owner. The fact is, they can fetch high prices several thousand more than some luxurious sports car.
Camel race, without a doubt, is also one of the most anticipated events in the country today. With the holiday kicking in, fans are eagerly waiting for the next event. For those living in Barka and Al Sharquiya, they won’t definitely have a hard time securing a good spot to witness this most authentic of Omani traditions.