United Arab Emirates: wild camel racing

Chieftain’s madness

Camel racing is a popular sport in the Arab world and western countries.
Camel racing has been around for centuries in the united Arab emirates.
It became a game in which high-spending sheiks flaunted their wealth and gambled against each other.

Every year from October to April, Arab sheikhs from the wealthy Arab side gather in dubai for a camel race.
The racetrack is a ring of sand with 15 to 20 camels in each race.
As the race continued, the distance gradually increased from 4km to 8km or even 10km.
At the end of each season, there will be more than 70 camels in the race. The rush of camels and cheers from the spectators become the climax of the season.

Arab sheiks became so crazy about camel racing that they bought famous breeds of camels from all over the world and trained them to be excellent racers.
Of the 14 million camels in the world, 50,000 are concentrated in dubai alone, mostly from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Africa.
Some chiefs own more than 1,500 camels and spend nearly $70 million a year to raise and train them.
In order to balance the nutrition of these famous camels and make them stronger and stronger, some chiefs specially set up a farm with 300 dairy cows and fed the camels with plenty of fresh milk.

The chiefs’ efforts will certainly pay off. If their camels win the race, they will receive handsome prizes, including luxury cars, four-wheel drive trucks, yachts and lots of cash.
And because so many people come to bet every season, often in the millions of dollars, the winnings speak for themselves.
The winner of the race is highly prized and can sell for as much as $50,000, not counting the cost of his owner’s luxurious outfit.
The jockey’s sorrow

Like racehorses, the best camels have good jockeys to guide them to the finish line.
In camel racing, which is popular in the Arab world, jockeys are boys.
The selection of jockeys is very strict and they are usually under the age of seven and weigh between 15kg and 17kg.

Once selected, the young jockeys will begin the difficult and frustrating training process of several weeks.
Jockeys are required to go to bed between 10 and 11 every night and get up at 4 am for training.
They were usually put together in a tin hut, where they slept under the ground. The temperature in this kind of hut changed greatly in the desert, it was hot as a steamer in the day, and very cold at night.
The lighter the jockey, the faster the camel will run during the race, so the owner often restricts the jockey’s food and water.
During the weeks of training, the jockeys were regularly flogged and scolded by their masters, who said, “in the eyes of their masters, their lives are nothing compared to those of the camels.”

The eight-year-old from Pakistan cannot forget his first race appearance.
“We were tied to the backs of the camels with ropes and waited for the race to begin.
Everyone knew it was a very dangerous race. If you were not careful, you would fall off the backs of the camels and be trampled to death.
Some of the jockeys cried out and refused to climb onto the camel, and the whip fell on them. The jockeys, with tears in their eyes, had to shiver and climb onto the camel.”

The game was wild and wild.
“People were cheering,” ali said. “we were screaming and screaming at the top of our lungs to get the camels to run.
Although we are all weak from want of food and water, we must neigh as hard as we can, or the camels will run behind us and be beaten after the race.”
Last November, while competing in a camel race in the united Arab emirates, ali watched amir, also from Pakistan, fall and die in the wild trampling.
One of ali’s trances also fell off the camel’s back, but he rolled alertly to one side and saved his life.
The memory of this moment made ali shudder.
Black world

The fate of jockeys is like walking a tightrope. Few boys choose to become jockeys. The jockeys are victims of human trafficking and trafficking.

Camel racing events in the Arab world began using boys as jockeys in the early 1970s. The jockeys were originally sold from Oman and Sudan. In recent years, impoverished south Asian countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have become major suppliers of jockeys.
There are currently 1,000 jockeys in the gulf states of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to statistics. In the past eight years, 60,000 boys have been sold to the gulf states from Pakistan alone to work as jockeys.
Throughout the 1990s, there were 1,683 jockeys brought to the bay from Bangladesh.

Mohammed, a father of two sons from Pakistan, now guards camels in the united Arab emirates for a wealthy sheikh.
In his hometown, he was approached by an intermediary who suggested that he take his son to the united Arab emirates, saying there were many wealthy arabs without children who would be happy to adopt them.
After listening to these words, Mohammed agreed, handed some photos and 50,000 rupees to the middleman, and the father and his son arrived in the uae.
Instead of being the darlings of a wealthy Arab family, the two sons became the jockeys of the whip.
Fortunately, the two sons were still alive, but because of their age, they were driven back home by their master.

Usually a woman who claims to be their mother is present when the jockey’s passport is being processed. This is a trick of getting around, and the information on the passport and other documents is almost always a forgery.
To reassure poor parents that their sons would become jockeys, the chiefs would first pay them a handsome deposit.
The jockey’s parents were then paid 500 dirhams a month, and the chief paid 50,000 dirhams if the jockey was injured in the race, 100,000 dirhams if the jockey died in the race.

Jockeys wear blue, white, red or green jockey uniforms and little helmets or hats during RACES, but their fortunes are far from so colorful.
Throughout the season, at the end of each race, the jockey would be immediately yanked off the camel and shoved into a car and dragged to another race, without the slightest respite.
Flogging and scolding are common. Many jockeys suffer from kidney disease due to chronic water shortage. Some jockeys are sexually assaulted by their owners, causing great physical and mental damage.

Because camel racing is such a brutal game, the uae camel racing association banned the use of boys as jockeying in 1993, and the government banned it in 1997, but it has had little success.
Now, government officials in the united Arab emirates say jockeys under the age of 15 who weigh less than 45 kilograms will be banned from riding before the start of each season, effectively curbing the abuse of jockeys.
At the same time, many countries have raised awareness of the problem of trafficking in children hidden in camel racing, and have joined forces to combat this ugly human phenomenon.
But Mr Ali hopes that more jocks like him will be rescued from the wild game.
(photo by liu yan)

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