Another Post About Camels

This weekend was all about camels. On Friday, the first day of the weekend in Qatar, my group hopped in our van and went to the camel races. I imagined camel races to be the Arab version of the Kentucky Derby, minus the horses. I was dead wrong. Camel races are indeed races, but in more than one sense: while the camels were racing around two to four mile portions of a giant track, cars were also racing alongside of them in order to get a good look at the competition. Our driver, Sameer, drove our manual twenty-person van alongside Land Cruisers and SUVs in order to give us a taste of the racing experience. And what an experience it was!

We watched three races, which didn’t even get us halfway around the full track. Each race started and so did the cars, following alongside the camels as they ran the two-mile stretches. As soon as a group of camels reached their finish line, another group took off with gangly limbs flying and foamy drool dripping from their mouths. Each camel has a rider, in the form of a tiny robotic robot that is controlled by camel racers who ride alongside their racers in still more Land Cruisers. The entire event was a spectacle: the cars flying alongside the camels, each camel’s different attempt at running (some gallop, some run, some flail.) I was equal parts delighted with the spectacle and sad for the camels being pushed past their physical limits.

With barely enough time to recover from the thrill of the camel races, it was time for the Saturday’s desert safari. Land Cruisers (complete with the all too familiar detailing) picked us up and raced through the city to the desert. If I though the driving in town was scary, I had no idea what was coming. After an hour, the dunes started getting bigger and the drivers stopped at a camp to let air out of the tires for dune bashing. While we waited, we could ride camels! Of course I was thrilled with this prospect, as I’ve spent the trip obsessing over camels, going as far as to try a camel sandwich. Getting onto the camel was similar to standing up waterskiing in that you have to hold on for dear life as you the camel stands, jerking you every which way. The camel ride itself was an uneventful four minutes, until the camel decided to sit down. The camel went from sitting to standing in roughly .32 seconds, almost bucking me overboard. Fortunately I am an experienced mechanical bull rider and held on for dear life as the camel decided to jerk backwards at the last possible second, reversing my momentum moments before my head was permanently fused with the desert floor. The rest of the day was amazing: bashing down hundred foot dunes, sand surfing, and a quick dip in the Arabian Gulf, but the most important part of my day was the camel ride. Moral of the story: camels seek out revenge after you eat one of their brothers.

Gina Van ThommeComment