Camel racing can be traced back to the seventh century in the United Arab Emirates. Fast-forward to 2021 and a group of women are making history in the world of camel racing.
As part of the C1 Championship in Al-Marmoom, the team from the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre took part in the first licenced female camel race.
Race team member Katie Higgins initially just wanted to learn how to solo ride a camel but says she became hooked on the sport quite quickly.
“Once I accomplished that, then I just wanted more and more and more,” she said.
Ms Higgins said making history was a great motivator: “It was something I was honoured to be part of. You know, I'm proud to be a part of it.”
No experience required
Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre Co-founder and Trainer Linda Krockenberger said the school is for those who want to ride for pleasure as well as race.
“We opened for the sole purpose to receive completely new riders. No experience is required to join us.”
This group of sportswomen are now encouraging other people to experience it for themselves.
Laura Broadhurst is an avid horse rider and noticed the camel riding via social media. “I saw a post about a Ramadan ride. It seemed very kind of atmospheric. So I came along and I’ve been coming back ever since.”
Their advice for first-time riders was to move with the animal and to try to relax.
Linda Krockenberger said standing up, sitting down is probably the most uncomfortable transition for first-time riders.
Katie Higgins added that it felt very different taking part in the race compared to when the group ride for fun.
“So it was a combination of nerves and excitement, but a lot more excitement because, you know, this is a passion for me now. It's become my life, and that just all fell into place on the day of the race.”
The founder and camel owner at Arabian Desert Camel Riding centre, Obaid Juma bin Subaih al Falasi, said it was amazing to see so much support for the team on race day.
“More than 200 people came to see this race, the first race for ladies of all the different countries. I am very happy, not for me only, but for this group.”
Barriers slowly dissolve
Ms Krockenberger said racing is just one part of what they do and one of the most rewarding things for her is to see people get comfortable with the camels.
“From having no touchpoint and no idea of how to approach or interact with camels, to then see those barriers slowly dissolve.”
She added that was one of the main reasons she launched the riding centre.
“I found so much peace and happiness from working with camels, as well as understanding more of the Emirati culture. And I just wanted to create access for others.
“I can see that lots of students have lost a little bit, that direct interaction with animals and they have to rebuild that bond.
She said this doesn't always happen whilst riding, and that it's also about building that relationship off the camel.
“And that's what I believe we should continue fostering,” she added.