Camel Racing in the Arab world is an old tradition, and in this new age camel racing has taken a whole new turn, camels these days cost millions of dollars, their training is grueling, lasting years. Camels are fed a rich diet most likely monitored better than yours or mine. Special factories prepare the grain, with magnet sweeps for metal, and vacuuming of any dirt. Racing camels munch high-nutrition trail mix consisting of milk, dates, honey, barley and clover, sometimes spiked with vitamins. Yet camels often vomit this breakfast before or after the race. Trainers consider that a good sign, indicating a camel that is ready to run. Although the sport is popular in the wider arab world but no where its more than in UAE and in particular in Dubai. There are 15 racetracks throughout the UAE, Dubai claims two of the six main stadiums, as well as a modern Camel Hospital near the larger of the two, Ned Al Sheba. The season runs from October into April. Races begin at four kilometers, gradually increasing to reach the full 10 kilometers. Camels move at four different speeds, which all involve unique leg patterns. At its fastest, the camel has been clocked at 65 km/h, but not for long. Females can maintain a steady speed of 40 km/h for a full hour, which makes them the more competitive camel.
Riding these camels can be difficult, on or off the race course. The single hump of Arabian camels makes seating a serious quandary. When tourists take short treks, camels are usually knitted with a rope saddle. You try to maintain this perch while holding the rein with one hand and hanging onto the hump with the other. And for these special races special riders are used, these riders are usually 3 to 7-year-old and mostly from South Asian countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, where poor parents sell their kids to servants of rich Arabs, not all kid are bought, kids are kidnaped, even as young as 1-year-old have been either bought or kidnapped.
These kids are not destined for fame, unlike the animals that they ride. These kids are treated poorly and are kept more or less like slaves. Arab kids are no more used in these races because of the dangers involved, if a child falls he is likely going to be killed by the impact of the fall. From one of the kid who was brought back to Pakistan in 2009 told that, they were not allowed to eat dates, if they ate dates, then they would get electric shocks, this might be because the rider has to be slim and small so that the camel can run faster, these kids are feed beans and are kept in sub-human conditions. These kids are not mentioned in the papers, they don’t win any prizes, the money goes to the Sheikh who is the owner of the horse and the rider. The winning camel is the hero of the night and the person who owns it, the jockey is quickly removed from the scene and taken back to the camel pits for training for the next race.
Question that has to be asked here is that how do these kids get there. Some times the kids are brought in the UAE by servants of rich Sheikhs who pose as parents, usually a child is brought in when he is 3 or 4. Police and immigration of UAE is also complicit in this, most kids get here by other means completely bypassing the immigration. These kids are slaves, when some one dies because of a fall from the camel he is buried in an unnamed grave and will be forgotten, some will be killed by rival child jockeys, others die of malnutrition. Local media in the UAE is not allowed to report on the conditions of the jockeys, the are not allowed to report on any thing that goes on behind the scenes in these races, as most of the kings and powerful sheikhs are involved in this sport, no one dares to write anything negative about them.
Not only is their complicity in the UAE, but in Pakistan current government seems to have let go of the initiative taken by the previous government, current government has not taken up the issue with the UAE government and a recent report has shown that as much as 1085 Pakistani kids were taken to UAE recently for whom $1.1 million dollar was paid in all, these kids were all under the age of 14, in Pakistan kids under the age of 14 are not allowed to leave the country without a parent or a guardian.
This cruel game has to stop, if the Arab kings love this sport that much then they should put their own children on the camels and then race them. There have been some reports of UAE importing robots to mimic the child rider, but in order to excite the camel a child needs to scream while as loud as possible while riding. which the robots are unlikely to mimic very well.