Camel racing takes Sinai by storm after virus hiatus

The traditional sport is a way of keeping Bedouin heritage alive

By   |  Published: 15th Sep 2020  2:54 pm

Desert El Tîh: Spread out at the foot of a vast plateau in the Sinai desert, hundreds of excited Bedouins gathered to race their camels after a six-month break due to coronavirus.

Shrouded in a vast sand cloud kicked up by the hump-backed beasts, more than 500 camels were loudly cheered on by their owners dressed in traditional jalabiyas and headdresses.

Camel racing is a popular traditional sport in many Arab countries, most notably in the Gulf region. And in Egypt, Bedouins of the South Sinai desert have kept up the tradition.

The competition “is a training for the international race, which should take place in October in Sharm el-Sheikh,” Saleh al-Muzaini, head of the Nuweiba camel club, told AFP.

One group of camels after another, placed in different categories according to age and whether they were male or female, made their debut on the dirt track lined by sand embankments on each side.

On their backs sat mechanical jockeys wearing racing jerseys and brandishing whips, which are lighter than human riders.

Among the audience was 32-year-old Mostapha Abu al-Fadl, a geologist at an oil company in Cairo, who came especially to watch. “When I heard they were organising the race again, I told my friends how crazy, how wonderful it is… We had to come and see,” he said. To the Bedouins, the race is a way of keeping a traditional heritage alive.

“Camels will not disappear for us. We can use them for centuries. If the camel goes away, the Bedouins will also go away,” Sheikh Hassan, of the Alegat tribe, which organises the event said.