Camel racing is the ancient traditional sport of the Bedouin.
Camels do not run fast in the beginning. The true test is if they run long distances. That kind of endurance is important for the pride of the tribes.
The camels are saddled with a lightweight cotton saddle for the race.
Camel races are usually held in the winter months, between December and February. Most camel races are regular races between Bedouin tribes.
Nowadays, in the area around Nuweiba, sometimes camel races are being held for tourists.
The camels usually run laps but sometimes they run a long distance on a sandy plain or in a wadi (valley), followed by a pack of cars racing each other to get close to the camels, to cheer on and to look after their safety.
The jockeys are usually boys, around 11 years old. Some of them are taken 1 year away from school to concentrate fully on their camels and the races. (In more developed Arab countries the jockeys are now replaced by remote controlled robots and there camel racing is a million dollar sport.)
The boys clearly have a great bonding experience with their fathers and uncles while they are a jockey and this is a serious business.
Gambling is forbidden in Islam so this is not done, but there are big prices in kind or in cash for the winner (which is the family).
When the larger camel races are held is published a few weeks in advance but it is confirmed only a (few) day(s) before the race. Attending is a dusty event. You often see litlle of the race itself, but from a cultural perspective it is fun and interesting to do. It's a dusty event (many camera's have not survived) but great to see all the excitement on the faces and to see the camels running full speed with three legs of the land. It's contagious...
BEDAWI - R.W. de Jong