Final camel race of the Gulf season begins in Dubai on Saturday

Sheikhs, tribesmen and some 14,000 race camels are expected to compete at Al Marmoom Heritage Festival

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Dust will fly at the Al Marmoom racetrack this weekend when the Gulf’s fastest camels compete in the grand finals of the camel race season.

Sheikhs, tribesmen and some 14,000 race camels are expected to compete at the 38th annual Al Marmoom Heritage Festival in Dubai, which begins Saturday, April 6 and ends Thursday, April 18.

The festival is one of the largest events on the Gulf camel racing calendar and marks the end of the season, which runs from September to April.

Camel owners race alongside the track to watch and cheer for their camel. But for visitors hesitant to join the throng of honking vehicles, a free public bus will run alongside the track during races so all visitors can follow the action.

After the races, the public can visit the market and watch folk art performances at the racetrack’s Heritage Village. It will be open from 6pm until 10pm.

Victorious camels will have their heads covered in saffron and owners will take home trophies, daggers, rifles, swords, saddle seats, luxury vehicles and cash prizes. Last year’s prizes exceeded Dh153 million.

There will be a total of 378 races this year, with 132 dedicated to camels owned by sheikhs and 246 for those entered by tribesmen.

Events will begin with camels under age three racing 4km at 7am on Saturday. As the days pass, the maturity and speed of the camels will increase, culminating in the 8-km race for hool and zumool camels, which are female and male camels age six and above.

The first place winners of this category will take home the prestigious Emirates Sword.

The festival is an important event for Omani camel breeders, who travel to the Emirates to sell pedigree racers on the sidelines. UAE breeders can see fortunes rise through the sale of a proven racer. Some spectators drive thousands of kilometres to for the races.

Last year's stars included the camels Baynounah and Meyasa, who helped Saleh Bin Nassra of Al Ain emerge as one of the top victors during the championship rounds.

Races run from 7am until 10.30am and between 2.30 to 5.30pm at Al Marmoom camel racetrack on the Dubai-Al Ain road. There are no races on Friday, April 12, and there will be no morning session on Thursday, April 18.

The event is free.