UAE to resume camel races in August after Covid-19 prompted suspension

The sport of millionaires will restart with new regulations to limit the spread of coronavirus among at-risk herders

Camel races will resume at Dubai's Marmoum track in August after a five-month suspension.

Hundreds attend weekly races from September to April but the season was suspended a month early this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At race tracks, camel handlers work in closer proximity as they jostle and guide camels to and from the starting line.

Wealthy owners and traders usually watch races from their cars, driving alongside the track. However, extensive socialising takes place after races, when owners and traders congregate at prominent majlises near the track.

The last major circuit race in the UAE took place in Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathbah track on March 21, five days before the country introduced domestic travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Two festivals are scheduled for next season. The Dubai Crown Prince Camel Festival will run from January 23 to February 4, 2021 and the circuits grand finale, Al Marmoum Heritage Festival, will run from March 28 to April 8, 2021.

To ensure the events are safe, the UAE Camel Racing Federation has issued new guidelines for future races.

To limit the time handlers gather at the track, camels are not to leave their farms before 6am and tracks will only open at 6.30am

Robot jockeys must be mounted before camels leave farms, not at the racetrack.

Gathering at the side of the track is prohibited and people should maintain a five metre distance from others.

Attendees must wear a face mask and gloves at all times.

The UAE Camel Racing Federation will issue fines if owners fail to comply. Fines will be doubled for repeat offences.

Camel racing is a popular sport across the Gulf.

While Emirati owners do not rely on camel races for their livelihoods, the sport does provide a lucrative hobby, with hundreds of millions in prizes presented to citizens at state-sponsored festivals.