Saturday, April 01, 2023 | Ramadan 9, 1444 H
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An event that measured power and beauty

Photos by Anbar al Maskr

It turned out to be a scintillating show of beauty and power when scores of camels and horses came together for a traditional racing performance in Ibra. Organized by locals, it showcased the best performing horses and camels of the Wilayat and even has attendees from the nearby wilayats.

The popular sport saw camels compete at speeds of up to 64 kilometres per hour on tracks specially built for the race to the rounds of applause of the cheering crowd.

Camels and horses have a legendary role in Arab history and they are renowned in Arab history for their legacy as racing animals. The once the “ship of the desert”, camels are equally needed for people on land as well as in deserts.

Oman's best horses showcased their beauty and might in the performance that saw hundreds of locals, foreign racing aficionados who gathered to cheer the participating teams to come with flying colours.

"We witnessed the best of horses vying each other showcasing their wilderness as well as the beauty at the horse race and show in Ibra. The horse and camel show was a treat to the lovers of traditional racing in the country as the world is showing cvictory over the Covid 19,” said Anbar al Maskari, a tour operator associated with the show.

Entry to the horse race festival, which was held at the Ibra grounds was free, which was truly made use of by the visitors, according to Al Maskari.

Asked about the role of camels in Oman culture, Al Maskari said these beautiful animals, which have been a means of travel, food and shelter, have also played a vital role in the region over thousands of years, impacting all aspects of daily desert life. Camels are also used for entertaining, celebrating and competing in festivals and special events.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Agriculture, and Fisheries Resources suggests that Oman has nearly 2,000 horses of various kinds. Out of them, more than 350 are purebred Arabian horses, 150 thoroughbreds and 1,500 indigenous breeds.

The Sultanate of Oman has a well-maintained horse riding culture, rearing horses is one of the popular hobbies of the citizens, and equestrian activities are a part of their traditional sports and passion. Many Omanis take pride in keeping horses and take part in equestrian activities regionally and globally.

Annual races are being held in the Sultanate's royal stables and the culture is prevalent in almost all the wilayats.

The UNESCO, in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, mentioned Oman's 'Ardhah', meaning 'the day of the festival’ which is practised using the horses and camel across many regions of Oman. A festival that enhances human bonds, and unites minds, is a festival when people gather around the racecourse to watch shows by horse and camel riders that reflect the skills of Omanis in dealing with and taming the animals. Traditional arts such as the reciting of traditional poems also accompany the demonstrations. Alardhah starts with a display of traditional acts, such as horses and camels lying down, riding standing up, joining hands with another rider at great speed, and other similar actions. This is followed by a display of horses and camels draped with decorative clothing and beautiful silver sets. Alardhah is associated with many social occasions in Omani society, such as religious and national celebrations. The practice is an integral part of the society’s culture in rural and urban areas and reflects great skill as well as people’s devotion to the care of animals. Alardhah involves both men and women and is an opportunity for traditional bands and craftspeople to display their talents. At the community level, Omanis organize Alardhah on various social occasions, which involve young people. Civil organizations also play a key role in transferring the related skills, and horse groups at the university teach students equestrian skills and how to perform Alardhah.

During the cooler months from September to March, Oman holds a traditional National Camel Race Festival annually and is organised by the Royal Camel Corps and the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with the Ministry of Sports Affairs and the Oman Camel Racing Federation.

For several centuries, camel and horse racing competitions have been held across the country and it continues to be an integral part of the country’s tradition and social fabric.

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