Saudi Arabia is staging its first all-women camel race on Monday.
As part of the Crown Prince Camel Festival, a 38-day event celebrating camel racing culture and Arab heritage, the kingdom will hold its first race with an entirely female cast of riders.
The race will take place at the Taif Camel Field. Situated in the Makkah Province in south-west Saudi Arabia, the Taif region is also famous for its roses, with more than 550 million harvested every year.
Camel racing is an ancient sport across the Arab Peninsula with races of the native dromedary camel traced as far back as the 7th century CE. Traditionally an all-male sport, now things are changing rapidly.
A first step towards including women in the sport came last year when female jockeys were invited to join the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. Now, the festival has gone one step further and is holding its first all-female race, with a prize pot of 150,000 Saudi Arabia riyal (Dh146,900).
One team involved is from the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre in Dubai, who will compete in the inaugural 2km race. Speaking ahead of the event, team leader Linda Krockenberger explained why the event is groundbreaking.
“It is an honour to finally see a category for women [to be] part of one of the biggest festival schedules. As a team we hope to inspire other women to follow their passion and get involved,” she said.
She also expressed gratitude to the race organisers for staging “the first, but hopefully not the last” all-woman event.
Taking place on Emirati Women’s Day, the new race is something of a historic milestone and a major step forward for sports.
“It is an opportunity to showcase skills, but also leave our mark and set an example for other women to join this sport and demonstrate values with camel welfare at their core,” said Coralie Virauloud, a member of the Dubai team. “The team and I have trained all year round for the last two years, and it makes me extremely proud that the efforts are met with an invitation to the first all-female race in Saudi Arabia.”
The Crown Prince Camel Festival is an annual celebration of Bedouin culture in Saudi Arabia and the long heritage of camel racing. The first official race took part in 1964 as part of the Heritage Festival, and today it is regarded as the biggest camel event in the world, where more 10,000 animals take part across 589 races, for a total prize pool of $15 million (Dh55,087,500).
This year's event began on August 1 and will conclude on September 7