Deep in the heart of the United Arab Emirates, the ancient sport of camel racing is enjoying a resurgence.
In keeping with the region’s rapid development from gulf outpost to economic hotspot, prize money for winning camels can now be upwards of $2 million.
One bull camel was reportedly sold recently for 35 million Dirham — over $9.5 million.
The sport has been around for centuries but technology is changing the game. Since child riders were outlawed in 2002, small robots are now frequently used instead of humans in a move towards a “more humane” form of racing.
Track length typically varies between 1.5 and 8 kilometers, while camels that have just been broken in can expect to train between two and three kilometers per day.
The camels average speeds of about 25 mph during a race, and are instead “manned” by small, 4kg robots and possess a walkie-talkie speaker enabling owners to deliver commands to the camels during the race. The robots come complete with their own makeshift racing jerseys as well as a small automatic whip operated by remote control, their operators command the robot jockeys from cars that whirl around next to the track during a race enabling owners to dictate the speed of the robot’s whip.
Racing camels can be worth a fortune and have been known to be sold for several million pounds.