Monday 7 November 2011

One hump or two?

Tomorrow is the big day at the races in Christchurch - or one of them, at least: Cup Day at the Addington trots, and a welcome chance to dress up and have some fun for Christchurch people. I was a bit disappointed in Dubai not to see any horses, other than in statues and sculptures, since Arabs are such a beautiful breed. If I'd had more time, I would have tried to go for a ride. Arab horses have rounder, flatter hooves, you know, to help with not sinking into the sand.

But I did see racing camels. I'd heard about camel racing last year while lurching through the Outback near Pichi Richi in South Australia with Graham, a 4th-generation cameleer who has worked as a trainer in the Middle East with racing camels worth up to $8million, which is pretty rich going for a place (in Dubai at least) where gambling is forbidden. The prizes tend to be luxury cars, in compensation. The camels can go surprisingly fast: I was told 50kmh for the females, half that for the males.

We saw a training session in progress outside the city, dozens of camels loping along, some with jockeys and the rest with the new robot jockeys, that have taken over from the young boys who used to be used, often in less than desirable conditions. Now the camels have little machines strapped to their backs with whips attached that whirl round in circles, radio-controlled from the 4WDs that drive alongside. Modern technology, eh?

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