Camel racing has been one of the most important parts of Qatari lifestyle for centuries. But the professional camel racing started in 1970s. It first started at weddings as a form of entertainment but today has become a multi-million dollar business and a lucrative form of revenue generation. People from around Qatar and Gulf region participate in the competition that takes place at Qatar’s renowned camel race track arena at Al Shahaniya which is an hour away from Doha in the north.
About the Al Shahaniya Camel Racing Track
If you want to visit the race track, you should visit before 10 am so that you can watch the camels being trained by experts. You could see them running around the track while also taking a walk around the paddocks and see their living and breeding environment.
Al Shahaniya is an exciting place to see the desert scenery and camel racing tracks with some grand camels. Apart from this, there is a virtual camel city on the outskirts of the track where you can see the past and present of Qatar.
Camel racing competitions
The camel racing competitions take place from October till February every year on Fridays. The main competitions are held in March and April where the winners get the prestigious Golden Sword of the Father Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani at the end of the camel racing festival which is well-known as H H the Emir’s Main Race. The race is organized by Qatar’s Camel Racing Committee with support from leadership of Qatar. Entry to these competitions is free and usually takes place from 7am to 2pm.
Training camels for competition
To start training early, baby camels are taken away from their mothers when they are around 1 year old. their training starts from 2nd year onwards. These young camels are placed in the racing track with other camels and they are expected to pick up the skill by just running along the older camels. They are trained twice a day for about 45 minutes for each session. They must be able to run a minimum of 40 kilometres an hour to be eligible for the race.
The age of the camels become a determinant of their participation. Young camels aged between 2 and 4 can race only for 4-5 kilometres, 5 – 6-year-old camels race about 7 – 8 kilometres while camels older than 6 years can race for 10 kilometres.
These camels are trained and fed special diets to ensure that they are fitter and ready for the competition. They start to be able to participate in the race when they turn about 10 years old. Once they are old, they are retired to make way for younger camels. Only the female camels are trained for the race.
When Qatar banned the use of child jockeys in 2004 that were used because of their age, size and weight, to race the camels, Robot jockeys were introduced. They were strapped to the camel’s back and they race camels on the race track. They are dressed in colourful clothing to add the colour of festivity.
The robot jockeys are controlled through a special remote by their camel herder or the owner of the camel. They are around 25 kg in weight and have proved to be very effective in racing as well.
Getting to Al Shahaniya
The Al Shahaniya Camel Racing Track is located on the Doha-Dukhan highway. It is about an hour away from the down town area of Doha. Take the Dukhan highway from Al Rayyan area and drive 35-40 kilometres down it. When you pass Al Rayyan football stadium, drive along for a few minute till the roundabout. Take the first exit on the roundabout and drive till you reach the Oryx sign. Turn left from here and you will see a signboard that reads ‘Camel Race’. You are at Al Shahaniya.
Al Shahaniya Race Track: +974 44 87 2028